Customer pain points are the Achilles' heel (Achilles was a figure in Greek mythology who was invulnerable except for his heel) of most companies. They may manifest as complaints, refunds, churn, or negative feedback, but they all boil down to one thing: unsatisfied customer expectations.

If customers don't get what they want or need, they seek alternatives, voice their grievances, or simply disappear. This is why savvy leaders, including chief customer officers, invest time, money, and energy into understanding their customers' pain points and solving them proactively.

However, not all leaders are savvy, and not all leaders understand that all pain points are obvious.

What happens, then, if C-suite leaders do not understand the customer pain points? The answer, in short, is that they risk sinking entire organizations like the Titanic.

So, what happened to the Titanic? The legendary ship that set sail from Southampton in 1912 and never reached New York? According to many historians and investigators, human errors, technological limitations, and environmental factors led to the catastrophic collision with an iceberg that ripped open the hull and led the ship to sink within a few hours, claiming more than 1500 lives.

However, one critical element often overlooked or underestimated is the lack of customer empathy for some key decision-makers.

All of us know the basic story of the Titanic: it was claimed to be the most luxurious and safe ocean liner of its time, with state-of-the-art amenities, spacious cabins, gourmet cuisine, and impeccable service. Yet, despite its grandeur and reputation, the Titanic failed to understand some basic customer pain points.


For instance, many passengers complained about the overcrowding, the noise, the smell, and the lack of privacy in the lower-class and middle-class areas, where most of them were confined.

Others found the food bland or unappetizing, the water cold or dirty, and the entertainment dull or repetitive. Still, others were concerned about the ship's speed, direction, and visibility in the smooth but dark waters of the North Atlantic, where icebergs were lurking.

Many of these pain points were not easy to predict or prevent, given the nature of the conditions and the technology available at the time. However, some were avoidable or manageable with better planning, communication, and cooperation between the crew and the passengers.

For instance, the crew could have informed the passengers more frequently and accurately about the weather and the risks of icebergs instead of relying on vague or generic messages that did not convey the seriousness of the situation. The crew could have also provided comfort and assistance to those experiencing discomfort or anxiety instead of treating them as a nuisance or burden.

Likewise, the passengers could have shown more empathy and cooperation toward each other instead of clinging to their social class or nationality stereotypes, which hindered their chances of survival.

Unfortunately, the Titanic's leaders, both on board and on land, did not fully comprehend or prioritize the customer pain points critical to the voyage's success and safety. Some were blinded by their assumptions, prejudices, or interests, while others were distracted by tasks or goals that seemed more urgent or profitable.

For instance, the captain, Edward Smith, was known for his pride and tendency to ignore his subordinates' warnings and advice, as well as the rules of navigation and safety protocols. He was more concerned with breaking a speed record or pleasing his superiors than with ensuring the comfort and security of his passengers.

And the owner of the Titanic, J. Bruce Ismay, was more interested in promoting his company's prestige and profitability than in responding to his customers' feedback or his engineers' recommendations. He pushed for a faster, bigger, and more luxurious ship to impress the world and attract more customers. Still, he neglected some technical and practical issues that could undermine its performance and safety.

For instance, he insisted on reducing the number of lifeboats from the recommended standard because they would clutter the deck and spoil the view!!


This decision cost many lives later…

The lesson from the Titanic story for business leaders is clear:

They risk sinking their ship if they do not listen to and understand the customer's pain points. They may not face the same tragic consequences as the Titanic's passengers, but they will still lose their customers, brand reputation, revenue, and viability.

They will miss the opportunities to innovate, differentiate, and grow in a competitive market where customer satisfaction is the ultimate success metric. They will also fail to create a loyal and engaged workforce leadership team that shares their vision, CX strategy, and values because employees who feel disrespected, ignored, or disconnected from the customer experience are less likely to perform at their best or stay in the company for long.

Therefore, the challenge for C-suite leaders is to overcome their blind spots, biases, and assumptions and to embrace the customer pain points as the source of their insights, innovations, and improvements to build a customer-centric culture and robust customer experience strategy.

They must step into their customers' shoes, see everything with their eyes, and feel their emotions, needs, and aspirations. They must use data, customer feedback, and analytics to gather evidence and validate their assumptions. Still, they must also use empathy, creativity, and intuition to interpret customer data and contextualize it into meaningful actions. They need to involve their employees, partners, customers, and other stakeholders in customer-centricity to foster a culture of collaboration, curiosity, and continuous learning.

The "Unsinkable" Customer Insights: Navigating the 3 Main Objectives for Business Success!

There are many ways to understand the customer pain points, depending on the industry, market, the product, and the segment. Some common methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, social media monitoring, ethnographic research, and customer journey mapping. However, no matter what form or combination of methods a company uses for customer insight, it should always aim at three main objectives:

1. Identify the pain points that matter the most to the customers based on their level of importance, frequency, and severity in managing customer experience efforts, as well as their emotional impact, psychological motivation, and social context.

2. Solve the pain points in the customer journey in a way that aligns with the customer preferences, values, and expectations, and that adds value to their lives, not just solves a problem or fulfills a need.

3. Communicate the solutions to build employee engagement and improve commitment to excellence, integrity, and empathy.

If a company can achieve these objectives, it is more likely to avoid the Titanic mistakes and sail towards success, longevity, and prosperity.

However, if a company ignores or neglects the customer pain points, it is more likely to sink like the Titanic, even if it has all the bells and whistles of technology, marketing, and branding.

The lesson from the Titanic story is not that perfection is impossible or that disasters are inevitable, but that empathy, curiosity, and accountability are essential for leadership, innovation, and sustainability.

As the captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith, said before the ship sailed:

"I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that."

He might have saved his ship and passengers if he had listened to the customer's pain points.

In conclusion,

The overconfident C-suite leaders failed to recognize the customers' safety and comfort pain points, leading to a tragic disaster. This holds an important lesson for organizations today - ignoring customer expectations and pain points can result in risks and losses.

Customers are the lifeblood of any business strategy, and their satisfaction and loyalty must be a top priority. Failure to understand their needs and desires can lead to lost business, poor reputation, and even legal or financial issues. Therefore, it is imperative for C-suite leaders to not only understand but also empathize with their customers. Only then can they make the right decisions that benefit their customers and their organizations in the long run.

Read more - Leadership Defines The Tone Of Customer Experience Culture