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What is empathy mapping and why is it so important?


Customers are no longer the customers we knew. Empathy mapping is a useful (yet underutilised) tool to help you deep-dive into the mind of your customer and get to know them all over again.

8th Jul 2020

It's been a tough start to 2020, but as the world starts to regain some form of normality and our much-missed businesses begin to emerge out of a forced hibernation, the prospect of picking up where we left of is enticing!

If only it were that straightforward. The truth is, our environment, our social ability and our economic circumstances have altered so much that our customers are no longer the customers we once knew, their needs, their wants and their expectations have changed.

To successfully regenerate our businesses, we must understand and accommodate our newly evolved customer and now, more than ever, customer experience is crucial to every businesses survival. Empathy mapping is an amazing (yet underutilised) tool to help you deep-dive into the mind of your customer and get to know them all over again.

What is empathy mapping?

Empathy mapping is tool that really helps you get to to know your customers. By understanding what your customers think, feel, say and do you can develop rich insight which helps you to identify genuine issues, problems or concerns that your customer may have right now. In turn, this equips you to create solutions that are aimed at truly enhancing your customer experience.

Why is empathy mapping so important now?

When it comes to service design, we are shooting in the dark right now. These are unprecedented times, we have never existed in such unique circumstances and our customers are thinking and acting differently. You are likely to have customer data in abundance but we almost need to go back to square one to understand why customers are now doing what they do. Empathy mapping digs deep into the mind of your customer, it will help you to clearly identify their evolved wants and needs and theme key positive and negative areas for your specific focus.

So how do you empathy map?

Empathy map

  • Create a board with your four main character categories: think, feel, say and do and create two areas for pain ad pleasure points (These are to highlight the real problem areas to work on fixing or the benefits you can focus on enhancing). Place an image to represent your customer in the centre of the four categories and add any profiling data you may find useful.
  • Whilst talking with your customer use post-it notes (digital or good old fashioned paper both work fine) to record your observations in the relevant area. You may want to use one colour note or pen for pain points and a different colour for pleasure points, or make use of emojies, this will just make themes easier to identify.
  • When you have finished your customer interview, your four categories should be full of observations. This is the time to look for themes, you may find your customers are talking about the same thing, just in different ways. For example:

     - I feel nervous about entering the store with other people. 

     - I think about proximity more than I have ever done before.    

     - I have purchased facemasks for when I leave the house.

     - I say to my family to limit the need to go to the High Street.

Here you can very easily see a theme arising about personal safety. 

  • The final step, once you have identified any themes, is to turn this insight into action. Use this data to create products or services that target your customer's wants and needs. Use it to prioritise what you need to focus on first and make sure to create enhancements that will make a positive impact on both your customer and business.

Empathy mapping is your secret weapon to reviving a successful relationship with your customer. Don't underestimate the impact of the change we have all been through, instead, take to action to evolve your experience and show your customers how important they are.


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