Pain Points


Tash McGill


We call them the ‘pain points’. They are the often unspoken, yet overwhelming reasons why people don’t do things. Whether it’s a simple action in an online transaction, completing a survey, finishing an assignment or responding to email – everything from tasks of the daily grind to the really important, life-critical stuff (like visiting your dying grandmother), the reasons why we don’t get to it are usually because there’s a pain point somewhere.

I spend lots of time thinking about how to connect users with products. I think about how to move people from one interaction to another seamlessly, with as little drop off as possible. It’s because I’m trying to convince people of the value of my product, and trying to win them over to my cause. I’m trying to convert them to purchase, to book or to come back again, so I can have another chance at converting them.

The easiest way to do this is to remove the pain points. The little obstacles that give people reason to pause and reconsider the next step. We tend to invest all our energy in trying to get people to complete the main task, without spending energy solving the little problems along the way.

So, let me throw out something a little controversial. Imagine that your programme, group, activity is a product or service and your students are your users. Usually, the major problem you want to solve is connecting your students with your group or activity. Participation, right?

The most efficient and effective way to do this is to …..Stop trying to solve the big problem. Instead, focus your energy on trying to solve the little stuff. Even better, help your students to solve the little stuff for themselves. Help your student jump over the small obstacles and move past the pain points.

Pain points make themselves evident all the time – with verbal and non-verbal cues. Jake might say to you “I just never feel like there’s space for me to say what I think” or, when group discussions start – he might shut down and retreat into a corner.

You don’t need to solve this pain point for the whole group. In fact, it’s probably not an issue at all for some of your students. You don’t need to run a talk on listening and respecting each other. You just need to help Jake feel heard, or simply make space for him in the discussion by asking him to contribute and affirming his answer.

Little pain points often feel really big, but actually have relatively small, easy to execute solutions.

Likewise – solving world hunger in one go may not be the most convincing proposition for your students. There are a world of pain points they’ll see in that. But presenting them with proven, effective opportunities to make contributions that make a difference? Participating in that is easy.  Obstacle overcome.