It always surprises me that business leaders think they know what’s best for their customers without asking them. Unless you’re Steve Jobs, chances are you won’t know exactly what customers want without doing your due diligence and developing a deep understanding for what makes your customers tick. A Customer Empathy Map is one of the best tools I’ve uncovered to help innovators develop a deep understanding of what matters to customers in as little time as possible.
What is a Customer Empathy Map, and what are best practices, tools and online templates for teams and organizations?
A Customer Empathy Map is a strategic tool that is used to develop a thorough understanding of the customer or client who will be using a new product or service. More specifically, an empathy map forces individuals who are part of innovation or marketing teams to consider customer attitudes towards the product or service and their behavioral response to it. The empathy map should be created at the outset of any product development process. However, it should be constantly adapted as the team accumulates more client knowledge. The four quadrants of the Empathy Map are what the client 1) Says 2) Thinks 3) Feels and 4) Does.
An Empathy Map should be created for any new product or service developed by the organization because it helps to ensure that every team member has a unified perspective on who the product or service is being created for. By encapsulating knowledge about the user of the product or service, the organization will be able to identify what it does not yet know about its clientele and easily organize information (e.g., research, interview transcripts, survey results etc.) about its customers. Further, client information can easily be transmitted to other relevant parties.
There are many different versions of Empathy Maps tools out there. I helped create the one we use at Praxie, and that we make freely available as a download. It’s simple and is based on best practices I’ve gathered in the 3 decades I’ve spent as a strategic business consultant and prompts business leaders to take the following actions:
Define the breadth of the Empathy Map and the overall goal that it will serve to achieve. In this step, consider what client base the Empathy Map will be about and what organizational purpose the Empathy Map is being created to fulfill. A separate Empathy Map should be created for each segment of the organization’s clientele.
- Gather customer information. This step requires an abundance of qualitative information about the customers in the form of interviews, daily diary entries, open-ended surveys etc.
- Place the information into its respective quadrant on the Empathy Map. This step should only occur after each team member has individually digested all of the information that was gathered. Each team member should then write out the most salient information on a post-it note and place it on the map.
- Identify themes within the quadrants. Create themes on the empathy map by identifying which post-it notes are similar to each other. This step requires discussion amongst team members with the ultimate goal to reach a shared understanding of each quadrant among the entire team. Then, determine what information still needs to be obtained and why certain pieces of information did not fit in a theme.
- Adapt the map. Add more information to the map as you fill in the gaps in knowledge or add more detail to existing information.
Once you’ve fleshed exactly who your customer is and what they’re most interested in, you can then make sure the Customer Empathy Map addresses the following:
- What the client hopes the product or service will be
- Client concerns about and perceived risks of using the product or service
- How others might describe the product or service to the client and what aspects of the product or service is likely to generate the most “buzz.”
- How might the product or service fit into the client’s daily activity
- What the client would say to others about the product or service
- Desires benefits from using the product or service
Having a robust, yet simple, customer empathy map is critical. That’s the only way you’ll know how to best engage with your customer. Which is also the only way you’ll consistently engage and serve them effectively.
About the Author
Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an Affiliate at the Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business, a columnist for Inc. Magazine, a globally recognized keynote speaker, and the Founder of Praxie. Business Insider and the Thinkers50 have named him one of the world’s top management thought leaders and consultants.