Empathy Maps: How Do These Elevate Your CX?

Kate Priestman

In our rapidly evolving digital world, businesses need tools to help them stand out online and set themselves apart from competitors. 

The elevation of digital services has raised customer expectations through the roof, and they now expect exceptional service. A customer experience (CX) that is personalized and responsive to their needs and wants have become a basic requirement. 

Embracing digital-first

Brilliant CX involves making your customers’ lives as easy as possible. You want to increase their lifetime value, but to do so, you first need to understand their wants and needs. It’s the businesses adopting this approach who are winning.  

Before launching a new product or service, businesses must evaluate any potential requirements in the current market, and who better to ask than the users themselves? 

Smart business decisions are made by understanding that empathy drives positive user behavior and engagement. You need to drill down into your customers’ needs and wants to develop a comprehensive understanding of this and then deliver it. 

Successful product development is a result of creating an empathetic solution to a problem that real users have. 

So, how do you really find out what users want? An empathy map is the answer. 

What is an empathy map?

Also known as a customer experience map, this is a visual map containing knowledge and data about users’ thoughts and actions.

Valuable information is collected about how users feel regarding products or services, what their pain points are, what stops them from clicking “buy”, potential obstacles or complications on their journey to a sale, and so on. 

An empathy map can be used to predict future user behavior based on past experiences. Businesses that embrace the concept of an empathy map are actively following an agile approach to CX. Only by truly understanding your customers’ thoughts and problems will your business be able to solve them. 

The infographic below demonstrates the four elements of an empathy map:

Some of these elements are straightforward, such as what people say or do. Others, like “think” and “feel”, need more deciphering. 

Says

This explores what the user has to say about the product or service. Do they understand the benefit of it? The inclusion of real quotes from users during the data collection stage is the preferred option here.  

Thinks

The thoughts of the user when using the product. Many insights will crop up during product interaction and these need to be captured. 

Does 

Looking at what the user is currently doing, what they might do in the future, and, if a variant changed, how they would react. 

Feels 

All the feelings, from worry to fear to satisfaction. Try to gain a deeper understanding of the user’s emotional state during product interaction. This includes taking a good look at body language and interpreting it. 

What can an empathy map be used for?

An empathy map has many uses for businesses. These include:

  • Improving customer satisfaction and the user experience 
  • Helping to design new products and services
  • Developing cross-selling opportunities
  • Designing marketing strategies

How do you create an empathy map?

You begin by isolating the question or problem that’s driven the need for an empathy map. This process is not a solo mission. Enlist the rest of your team to brainstorm with you. Data for an empathy map can (and should) come from different sources and stakeholders. These sources can take the form of:

  • Observations
  • Subject interviews
  • Quality-focused surveys
  • Various questioning techniques
  • Active listening
  • Team brainstorming
  • User feedback 
  • Non-verbal cues

Determine who you plan to gather research from, which questions you want answers to, and why respondents answered the way they did. 

During the creation of an empathy map, areas to explore might include:

  • The importance of the product to the user 
  • Pain points the user experiences
  • Worries that occur during interaction with the product
  • Which tasks give users a sense of satisfaction 
  • The end goal of the user
  • What the user perceives as success 

Not every bit of feedback you capture will be relevant, but you will spot some common themes and pain points. These should be studied in further detail as, clearly, they’re problems that crop up regularly. 

Your solutions should seek to solve them. To do this, you’ll need to keep the customer experience at the forefront as you develop your products and refine your offerings and processes.  

For example, the data captured in your empathy map could be used to create a wireframe design for your website. This is similar to a prototype but less developed. It does for your website what skeletons do for our bodies, keeping them functional. Wireframes allow you to focus on key areas of development. 

Wireframes can facilitate a simpler automation test process down the line by making it easier for developers to understand how each element of testing should be conducted. Where the wireframe is designed with the customer experience in mind, it keeps this at the forefront of the testing process.    

Preparing a feedback script beforehand and deciding on your methodology is essential. This ensures all your questions are answered and a thorough background of your chosen demographic is achieved. 

Benefits of an empathy map

The benefits of an empathy map for a business are endless. Whether it's finding out which pain points your business could solve or how you could make the CX more pleasant, an empathy map provides infinite learning opportunities. 

Its purpose is - quite simply - to show your business through your customers’ eyes, so you can better understand your strengths and weaknesses and work on improving your overall product or service. 

Testing, testing 

Let’s skip ahead to one we prepared earlier. It’s time to test your empathy map in an agile fashion. Software development can be our example. For a software application to be deemed successful, consumers must be able to use it in the manner intended. 

Part of delivering an improved CX experience lies in testing, which ensures the software meets the brief and addresses any concerns flagged by the empathy map. Remember, the key goal here is to use this data to provide solutions.  

An agile approach to testing is the most successful. Agile testing and test-driven development are always evolving, ensuring constant improvements are sought and culminating in a better product outcome. 

During the testing process, behavior-driven development is examined to ensure the end solution matches the behavior pattern. At the forefront of the testing is the user.

Regression testing is used as part of the overall process. This involves seeing if a section of code altered during testing affects another outcome. In our example of software development, the code would be tested in case another part of the software application breaks when it changes.  

Robotic process automation (a type of software RPA) comes into its own during regression testing. For example, if part of regression testing involves screen captures, this can be automated by RPA.   

RPA ramps up productivity for businesses in most areas. One area that shouldn’t be automated, however, is the creation of the empathy map, the reason being that bots don’t have empathy but humans do!

A great example of RPA delivering the best CX possible would be combining it with a cloud based phone system for small business. This can be used alongside chatbots powered by RPA to answer customer queries instantly and provide an omnichannel experience tailored to the individual.

The case for automation testing 

An automation test is routinely run during testing. As testing new software is a lengthy ordeal, automation is embraced by those who are responsible for managing it. 

Automation testing can be done at any time, day or night. By using sequences of scripts, this type of testing is able to examine the software in great detail before reporting back. 

Automation test protocol is a huge timesaver in testing products. In addition, it provides a good ROI as no manpower hours are involved once the automation scripts are set up. 

The empathy approach

An empathy map is a useful tool to keep users at the forefront of your mind at all times. Using this approach shifts your team’s focus and ultimately provides a better customer experience. 

Empathy maps seamlessly combine the successful collection of user data with the natural empathy of your team. Gathering data is not enough though - the real value comes with the analysis and identification of trends in behavior. Addressing the wants and needs you pinpoint is how great CX is achieved. 

Is your business ready to unleash the power of the empathy map? 

Kate Priestman

Kate Priestman is the Head of Marketing at Global App Testing, a trusted and leading end-to-end functional solution to test software for QA challenges.


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