Result 10: Measuring pain points in customer research

“Pain points” are the places where a person trying to use your service feels “pain” due to poor operational structure, bad service design or inefficiencies. This insight is used to help define a problem — the specific pain point that people are currently experiencing — so you can decide how to make things better for your users.

The Result 10 Customer Research measured a series of pain points that people experienced when dealing with government. We measured both how often people experienced them and how much they mattered. The pain points were uncovered through previous qualitative research we did in 2012 and we thought this research project would be a good opportunity to quantify the pain points to better understand the need for integrated digital services.

What pain points did we measure?

In total we measured 12 pain points:

  1. A problem with one government agency that could have been solved if it had communicated with another government agency (29% of people experienced this issue)
  2. A situation where a person had to approach several different government agencies before finding one that could help them (33%)
  3. Different government agencies, or staff in a single agency, providing conflicting information (36%)
  4. A situation where a person had to provide the same information to several government agencies (44%)
  5. A government agency neglecting to keep information provided in the past (30%)
  6. A situation where a person felt a government agency asked them to provide too much information to prove who they were (37%)
  7. A situation where a person wanted to complete a whole transaction online, but was unable to do so ( 37%)
  8. Lack of empathy and respect (31%)
  9. A situation where a person had missed out on a service or entitlement because they did not know it was available (39%)
  10. A government agency not seeming to understand the effect its decisions and requests had on the person (39%)
  11. A government agency that seemed to be looking for a reason to turn a request down, rather than considering it on merit (32%)
  12. A situation where a person could have avoided being penalised if they'd better information about what they needed to do (27%).

What did we learn?

What did we learn? Lots!

We learned that over half of respondents had experienced pain points, but more importantly we learned that the more interactions people had with government, the more pain points they were likely to have experienced. Their personal circumstances, such as educational attainment, income or ethnicity, made no difference. This finding challenged some strongly held assumptions some colleagues had about customers and their relationship with government and suggested the problem is with services.

Importantly, the more pain points people experienced the more they mattered. So, for example, while only 6% of respondents reported missing out on a service or entitlement ‘many times’ because they did not know it was available it mattered ‘a lot’ to 80% of those people. Comparatively for the 20% who experienced it only ‘once or twice’ it mattered ‘a lot’ to 32%  of them.

The report

A common question around the pain points is how we prioritised them. The short answer is: we didn’t.

The research report was simply a presentation of findings rather than a list of priorities. What we did do is categorise them into two broad clusters:

  • Pain points 1–7 are related to the way agencies function and the problems that arise when they operate in silos
  • Pain points 8–12 are related to more emotive pain points, where customers felt government agencies were not listening or taking their circumstances into consideration

On average the pain points in the second cluster were experienced by fewer respondents, but mattered considerably more.

So, what happens next?

While the temptation to prioritise remains the pain points are above all a call for us to do something. It reminds me of the famous quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to the Oglethorpe University in May 1932 at the height of the Great Depression, where he said:

The country needs bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.

In that speech he also called for “the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely.” While he was speaking about the American economy of eighty years ago his words could equally be applied to our challenge of designing government services today so they are easy to use.

The finding that that the more interactions people had with government, the more pain points they were likely to have experienced is a call for all of us in government to find new ways to make it better.

1 comment

  1. Comment #1. Richard Foy:

    Great research work!

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