How well do you manage pain?

If I asked you what business you are in, it is likely you would describe
your industry–food packaging, children advocacy, or banking for example. To
date, no one has ever replied “pain management”. And yet, aren’t we
all in that business? Doesn’t our success hinge on how well we manage pain?

Let me explain. In most businesses we describe what we do. Those businesses
that excel almost always focus on who they serve and the problems they solve
for their customers, or to say it another way, how they manage the customers’

In a conversation with Jack Welch yesterday, he spoke of the three most
important things he tracks in the companies he works with. In addition to the
values of candor and innovation, and the number one thing he mentioned, is
treating customers well. How do you treat customers well? You help them solve
their problems. That isn’t the same as shipping goods and services that they

This morning I attended a breakfast which featured a panel of entrepreneurs.
The businesses were very different but an astute person in the audience pointed
out that they all solved problems. These business leaders saw a problem and
fixed it. They developed a solution that didn’t exist for a market that already
existed. One provided enterprise analytics that helped hospitals analyze data
and take action to improve patient outcomes. Another invented and patented a
new sunglass technology. A third developed a new material to replace and
improve on an industry standard.  In
fact, one panelist said that when they approached a potential distributor for
their product, the target said, “I have been in this business over 100
years. Why didn’t we think of that?” We all know the answer to that

The truth is we are so busy working on what we already make, producing our
goods and services, we forget that the customers still have pain. No solution
is perfect. Someone is eventually going to come along and solve for that
pain–why shouldn’t it be you? Think about other “new” inventions that changed
the way markets work—disposable Swiffer mops replaced the old, dirty, smelly
variety; Iphones’ operating systems opened the door to apps and gave us the
world at our fingertips; Calloway big head clubs reinvented the game and
encouraged many non-golfers to take it up. With the aid of technology, more
information is available than ever before to help diagnose the pain, more
solutions are possible and market entry may not be as time or cost prohibitive.
Many of these ideas don’t even require significant new technology, they just
require asking, “is there a better way?”. I can’t think of a single industry
(except maybe certain protected or mandated government services/programs) that
isn’t vulnerable to the “better mousetrap” phenomenon.

If you don’t think of your business as “pain management” there is
a good chance that someone else will solve your customers’ pain. Start
rethinking your approach to customer relationships, customer service and
customer feedback. Position your company as the place to call when customers
have a headache. They are doing you a favor to inform you about how you can
make their lives easier. Send your customers two aspirin and tell them to
call….NOW! Or better yet, make a house call!


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