Customer Empathy Map: What You Should Know

A customer empathy map is a collaborative tool used to better understand your targeted customer. As a team, you and your coworkers will answer questions and fill out various sections about your user persona, or your target audience. The creation of this map is a collaborative effort within your team so that everyone is on the same page with your marketing strategy. Using this tool will help remove any confusion about your target audience is and their specific pain points.

Check out our guide on how to create a customer empathy map so you can apply this to your small business.

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1. What the Customer Thinks and Feels

Start by asking what your customer is concerned about when it comes to the problems you are looking to solve. What are the major preoccupations that prevent them from being happy? What are their aspirations that you can make a reality? By diving deeper into these questions you’ll better understand customer behavior.

For a good case study, look at the aspirational nature of advertising. This campaign focuses on both the aspirational goals of customers (taking a fun vacation that their friends are jealous of) as well as their concerns (cost of travel and the risk of booking a hotel that is dirty or low-quality). By focusing on what their customers think and feel about travel — and the hotel reservation process as a whole — they can develop ads that present as the hero to solve their problems and make their dreams a reality.

You may need to conduct some outside research to better understand your audience so you can accurately fill out this part of the customer empathy map.

2. What the Customer Hears

The next step when filling out your empathy maps is to address what the customer hears — otherwise known as the customer influences that determine what they think about certain places or things. Family members, friends, coworkers, managers, and online influencers are a few sources of hearing for your customers.

Even without realizing it, most people share their opinions and influence others throughout the day. They may say that a customer service representative they talked to was rude, or that they had the best dinner the other night. These opinions turn into recommendations and dictate what your customers buy. For example, if you hear that a pizza place down the street is dirty and the crust is soggy, then you aren’t likely to go there.

When filling out the customer empathy map, consider where your customer hears information (the sources) and what these sources are currently saying. Try to hear your brand through their ears.

3. What the Customer Sees

To address what your customer sees, look at their environment. This includes what solutions the market offers and what brands your customer has access to versus those that they might not know about.

For example, a company might see that customers have options A or B when they buy a certain product. What are the pros of option A over option B? What motivates a customer to choose either one? Think about a customer choosing between Target, Walmart, and Amazon to buy an item.

This part also requires you to consider the messaging that the customer currently sees about your brand to understand how they feel about your product or service.


4. What the Customer Says and Does

Along with outside forces like word of mouth or competitor’ marketing, you can also use a customer empathy map to evaluate what a customer says and does. What are their natural behaviors? What do they say on social media and how do they engage with others?

This part is especially important in social media. Consider how 90% of 13-24 year-olds are on Snapchat, a number that drops significantly as you look at older demographics. If you manage the social media of a brand targeting older customers, then you likely don't need to use this promotional tool. However, if you're marketing to 18-year olds, you need to meet your audience where they are.

5. What Causes Customer Pain?

The last two sections of the customer empathy map cover customer pains and gains. The pains involve the fears, frustrations, and obstacles that cause them to seek out your product or service.

For example, a customer would seek out a dentist because they are frustrated by tooth pain, even though they are concerned about the cost or afraid that the procedure will be even more painful. With this information, it is up to a dental office to create branding that is welcoming and encourages patients to come in before the pain becomes unbearable.

Your team can use this list of obstacles, frustrations, and fears to guide the brand messaging.

6. What Does the Customer Gain?

The flip side of the pains section are the gains, or how the customer will benefit from using your product. This section addresses their wants and needs, along with the obstacles that they can overcome by investing in your brand. This section is the base of your marketing efforts when you want to use your brand as the “hero” of your customers' problems.

If you are looking to fill in a customer empathy map within your team, check out this updated template by original map designer Dave Gray. You can print out individual maps or create one map template and place sticky notes in various quadrants until each section is complete. This is an exercise you may only need to complete once, and refer to later, or you may find it useful to create a new customer empathy map every time you launch a new product or service. Knowing the basics of your ideal customer can help you market to them effectively.