Customer Pain Points: How to Identify and Fix Problems Using Market Research Online Communities (MROCs)

Each year it becomes more and more evident that to succeed companies must listen to the Voice of the Customer. While in the early stages it might have been just a catchy buzzword, today Voice of the Customer goes as far as being an entire department. A team dedicated to listening to the customer, analyzing what they say, and using that feedback to inform decisions and create change. A reliable and effective resource for Voice of the Customer is an MROC.

What is an MROC?

One thing Market Research is known for is acronyms. So let’s start off by defining what an MROC is. An MROC by name is a Market Research Online Community. Clear enough? I didn’t think so. Breaking it down further, an online community is a group of people connecting online for a common cause. When it comes to Market Research Online Communities that common cause is typically providing feedback to a company that sells a product or offers a service.

MROCs employ qualitative and quantitative methodologies to gather the feedback. MROCs can be short-term or long-term, meeting one objective or infinite possibilities, and either way, they provide on-demand consumer input. Customer insights are at your fingertips, literally, just a keyboard or touchscreen away. In addition, MROCs help companies foster two-way relationships with consumers which stimulates brand loyalty.

Research can be done quickly and cost-effectively without sacrificing quality. The insights that come out of MROCs provide invaluable direction to better inform business decisions. A major cornerstone of MROCs is learning about your customers. MROCs are the gateway to building lasting, reciprocal relationships with your customers. Online communities open the doors to the minds of your customers. Learning about their experiences, how they behave, and equally if not more importantly, their pain points.

Pain Points

What is a pain point? Pain points include all your customers’ problems and therefore unmet needs. Research shouldn’t always be about basking in the glory of what is working, but making the effort to understand what isn’t. It may sting a little at first to immerse yourself in your customers’ biggest complaints and frustrations, especially if they are connecting them directly to your product or service, but this is where you truly get to know your customers as well as your products or services. It is here that you will discover how to better serve your customers and better meet their needs.

Identifying Customer Pain Points

Sometimes if you directly ask someone why they don’t like something, it’s hard to articulate. We’ve all been there when we can’t quite put our finger on the issue but we just know something isn’t right. That’s why if you ask consumers to interact with something or go to a store and purchase something when they share their experience from beginning to end you may uncover true pain points more naturally. Identifying pain points is the first step to creating effective solutions and therefore solving problems.

Fixing Problems

  • Need to know why your latest product isn’t moving off shelves?
  • Want to understand why a new line extension isn’t selling as expected?
  • Third question? – maybe generic bringing in co-creation, presenting consumers with a challenge, using their ideas on how something can be improved or work better for their needs to create or refine a solution that addresses a specific need. OR something not about a product.. messaging, website usability/account overview)

Let’s address the first question. You may have been in this kind of situation. You had a product that went through the typical product development process. It was tested and refined and eventually taken to market. You were ready to see the sales numbers move, but then nothing happened. You’re stumped. Before killing the product or taking some other drastic measure, you need to identify the pain points and fix the problem. Enter the MROC. If you have an online community, identifying pain points, and getting to the bottom of the issue can be simple. You reach out to members in the markets selling the product, ask them to purchase the product (for which they’ll be fully reimbursed), take it home, and tell you about their experience. This is exactly what Bacardi did.

And what they uncovered was the issue wasn’t with their product, but rather with how the product was shelved. Being a “top shelf” liquor, it was appropriately on the top shelf in stores. Members were nervous to reach up and take one, afraid they’d knock over other bottles causing a disaster. With their online community, Bacardi could identify pain points and fix the problem, in this case, simply by changing how the product was displayed in stores.

Now let’s address the second question. Maybe you’ve experienced this. You have a product on the market that is doing well so you want to capitalize on that and offer a line extension. You do your due diligence and research the flavors and varieties that are possible to determine which has the best potential. You narrow it down, do some more testing, and finalize which will be developed. The new variety hits the shelves and you expect sales. Yet surprisingly, it’s not selling as you expected. Again, you’re stumped. You have the research to prove this is what customers want. So why aren’t they purchasing it?

If you’ve invested in an MROC, you know what to do. Like Bacardi, you reach out to members in the right market and you ask them to purchase the product (for full reimbursement) and share their experiences. You just might be lucky enough to also discover it’s not the product at all. For a Fortune 500 CPG company, they also lucked out. Their hypothesis was that the flavor of their new variety was the problem. Initial plans were underway to refine the formula, however before fully moving ahead, they turned to their online community. After asking their members to go into a store, purchase the product, and use it at home, they learned that it wasn’t really about the flavor at all. A key takeaway was that many stores didn’t carry the product, at least where it could be found by shoppers or employees, and when it was carried, it didn’t stand out on shelves. With the valuable feedback from the MROC, this company could change course and invest in packaging changes rather than product changes.

In both of these cases, the MROC allowed the companies to identify pain points so they could be sure they were fixing the right problem. It saved them from killing a product that worked or spending time and money refining a product that didn’t need to be refined. While these examples refer to products, MROCs can be used to identify pain points for just about anything consumers are exposed to such as websites, advertising, and utilities.

Benefits of MROCs

As I mentioned, MROCs have the benefit of consumers at your fingertips ready-to-go. Customers ultimately want a product or service that is better suited for them, giving them more of what they want and leaving them with little, or ideally, no pain points. (Who doesn’t?) Because of this, they are more than willing to share their experiences, particularly their bad ones, empowered knowing that they have a hand in creating or refining a product or service they use. Another benefit of online communities is that you can go back to them mining for more insights. For instance, once you’ve tapped your MROC to identify the problem, adapt the product or service, then before taking it to market, go back to your community to have them evaluate the change. Confirm the key question, did the change fix the problem? Hopefully, the answer is yes but if not, time for another round! Sometimes it’s not just a two-step process (identify then fix). MROCs are designed for iterative research.

When you utilize an MROC you are allowing the Voice of the Customer to be heard. Listening directly to what your customers say shines a light on their pain points, shows you what problems to fix, and sets you up for success.