Empathy Mapping: What is it?
Empathy mapping is an ideation technique using empathy to generate a deeper understanding about the customers being targeted.
The Empathy Map game (ideation technique) was developed originally by Scott Matthews at XPLANE company as part of the human design toolkit called Gamestorming;
It can be used to help generate user personas, improve customer experience, used in combination with the Stakeholder Map to better understand the impact and influence of the stakeholders, to Culture Map an organization, and so forward…
When to use Empathy Mapping?
Why do most start-ups fail and why most new initiatives inside big companies carry so much risk?
It is because initially there is a mismatch in the problem/solution fit lifecycle stage of the product.
As we can see, the first rationale is finding a problem worth tackling, this is best done by using the Design Thinking approach.
Design Thinking developed somewhere in the 40’s and now it has become some sort of a buzzword, but the benefits are reaped by major companies and products around the world. What is important about the Design Thinking approach is that it has Empathy as the first step of the process.
Empathy is the beginning of the Design Thinking process and right here is where you will use the Empathy Mapping ideation technique/game.
Sounds great: when should I use it?
- New Product: When you are in the Problem Space definition phase;
- Existing Product: When branching out in new markets;
- Customer Insight: When generating user personas or just wanting to familiarize the team with the customers.
As Steve Blank’s CEO once told him:
“Motioning to our VP of Sales, he ordered: ‘Go with him and get him in front of customers, and both of you don’t come back until you can tell us something we don’t know.’”Steve Blank – Customer Development Framework – https://steveblank.com/2009/10/08/get-out-of-my-building/
- Emphatic design is qualitative in nature, without other qualitative gathering techniques, such as customer interviews, it might be hard to put yourself in the customer’s shoes or you might end up with generic personas;
- It is not a rigorous scientific way of generating personas, you still need quantitative data from actual users to narrow down your guesses;
- It is not a one-time process, meaning it should be applied and re-applied during the whole product lifecycle to get to know your customers as much as you can.
How to use Empathy Mapping?
- Prepare any personas / market segmentation / customer journey maps you already have available;
- Have ready any qualitative studies you might have available, like customer interviews / user testing / surveys;
- A physical or digital whiteboard with real-time collaboration, post-its and most importantly…
- 3-10 people from multiple fields: developers, product people, marketing, designers, the more diverse, the better;
- A facilitator
- The event is timeboxed to 20 minutes;
- The facilitator will ask the group what is the GOAL of this exercise (points 1 and 2) for this empathy map;
- Who the person is;
- What is the challenge they are currently facing in reaching your goal;
- The facilitator will ask the group to give this person a name;
- The facilitator then will go clockwise through all quadrants, one by one.
The important thing to note here is that before the process starts, the group should leave behind any biases they might have regarding culture, societal, religion and anything of such sort, if they have any biases, they won’t be able to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and fully empathize with their pains.
The first thing that the facilitator will do, is first give an example of how to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and answer specific questions from the quadrant by choosing a hypothetical person and walking briefly through the quadrants.
Here is a brief explanation on how the quadrants should be thought of:
- What do they SEE? – Imagine that the customer is not your user just yet. What does he/she watch, read, and is exposed to in your industry that could influence him/her? What does he/she see other people are doing? Take into consideration anything that might take his/her attention away from your product, e.g.: notifications, emails, promotional ads, etc. Consider what alternative products command her interest;
- What do they DO and SAY? – What is his/her behavior? How does he/she act in private? What about in public? What is their attitude and what do we imagine them saying? What can we imagine their daily activities are? What behaviors have we already observed? What might they do differently than what they say?;
- What do they HEAR? – What does he/she hear from his/her work colleagues/friends/relatives that might have an influence over him/her? What about what bloggers are saying, social media influencers, and other notable persons they might follow? Focus on impactful information, think about reviews on a restaurant for example;
- What are their PAINS? – What do they fear? What makes them anxious? What makes them think of multiple choices before committing to something? What might be some frustrations and challenges? What obstacles stand in their way?;
- What are their GAINS? – What makes them excited? What are their dream goals? What do they hope to achieve? What are their aspirations?
Example: Insurance prospect
Here is an example Miro board I have put in place to briefly illustrate how these questions should be answered:
This Empathy Map canvas exercise gives us some valuable input we can use next for our Persona Generation.
Using the outcome from the previous exercise, we can either enhance an existing Persona Canvas template or create a new one:
With this Persona now done, next time you create a User Story, for example, you can use “As Jane” and your team will better understand exactly what needs and wants they are addressing and how they can, by doing their work, can improve Jane’s life and also bring business value.
It is a challenge to get customer insights just from quantitative data such as customer segments and demographics. Doing empathy maps will enforce a Design Thinking mindset and will help with figuring out how to tackle a specific customer problem.
Not having found out the problems of your customers, you will probably diverge with solutions and might miss a market opportunity, empathy mapping helps keep your focus on the problems your main personas have.
Empathy mapping helps you to rapidly ideate and familiarize yourself together with your stakeholders and your customer base. It helps you build new user personas or enhance existing ones, so you can better address these or find out new problems to tackle.
Hope this exercise has proven useful, it can be applied both to internal and external customers. Be on the lookout for my future posts where I’m going to also discuss about using the Stakeholder Map in tandem with the Empathy Map so you can better address the internal customers as well.