What do Customers want – the meaning of Customer Empathy

Next to changing your approach into a customer focused mode to ensure Customer Centricity in your company policy, your need to understand the desires of the customer.

In this article you will learn how your customers behave, what instruments can help you understand your customers better, and, above all, you will learn why it is so crucial to differentiate yourself.

When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That's when you can get more creative in solving problems.

Customer Empathy

Empathy is the precious capacity to understand and feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. The basis for empathy is self-awareness, because the more open one to their own emotions, the better your capacity is to feel the outer world experiences and understand the feelings of other human beings.

When your own intuition and empathy are distinct and balanced you are perceived as socially competent, and it becomes easier to build relationships with other people.
By saying “understanding” we mean, rational analysis and grading of motivation. It is essential to be able to get into the potential customers’ minds and identify with their ways of thinking and feeling. This way you can see the world with this/her eyes and perceive customers as wholesome complete personality images.

What’s so cool about it: empathy can be learnt, and you can and should consistently improve yourself in it, because it will allow enhancing your own emotional intelligence.

First steps to understanding your customers desires

An attempt to get inside your customers minds in order to create an outstanding product or a cool service is not a trivial task. However, you can arm yourself with a couple of helpful tools, tips and tricks available.

First of all you need to understand whether you want to target private customers or you are reaching out to business customers.

You can classify private customers using the following metric:

  • Place of residence: city/country
  • Sex: male/female
  • Age: age group
  • Marital status: Singles/Families
  • Occupational groups: groups by profession
  • Educational religious and national background, etc.
  • Motive to buy: what makes people buy my product/service
  • Influencer: Who influences the buying decisions of my target audience
  • Sales location: where my target audience buys things
  • Purchase frequency: How often my target audience needs my product/service
  • Purchasing power: Are they ready and can they afford to pay a bigger price? Do they opt for cheaper options?
  • Do they have health- or environment awareness?
  • Conservative, communicative or even explorative.

When approaching the private clients it is advisable to take a look at the socio-cultural diversity of various countries, people’s attitudes and orientations, lifestyles and life goals, social backgrounds. One genius invention that can help you in this matter is the findings of SINUS Markt‐ und Sozialforschung GmbH.

Sinus Map Customer Empathy

You can classify your business customers by applying these criteria:

  • Region
  • Field of activity
  • Their company size: freelancers, small businesses, middle businesses, large businesses, the number of employees in the companies.
  • Company phase: company has recently been founded, goes through a growth period, or it is an established business.
  • Motive to buy: What is the reason for this company to seek and purchase my product/service?
  • Decision maker: who decides on order placements and procurement
  • Sales location: web-shop, e-mail special offers, visits of sales representatives, fairs, local retail trade – where companies buy things
  • Purchasing frequency: how often companies want to buy my product/service
  • Maybe it is an enterprise with a similar philosophy, e.g. environmental awareness, technical affinity, etc.
  • Are they conservative or do they have an open-minded attitude?

Customer Empathy Map – the map you need to dive into your customer’s world

You can track the needs and desires of your potential customers by using the empathy map.

Customer Empathy Map

This empathy map was developed by XPLANE founder David Gray and it is specifically designed for customer consulting. The map contributes a lot to the efforts of stakeholders to exercise empathy with their customers or users; it helps improving and enhancing the empathy experience. It enables the participants to plunge into the minds of their target group with the purpose of a better understanding what the customer wants and feels, what they do and what they need in career and life.
Any person in any business can be a stakeholder: a developer, an engineer, a customer support manager, a marketing specialist, and so on.

The light-weight version of the following questions can be discussed in the interviews. Answers can be generated through the internal brainstorming:

  1. How does the usage of your product or offer look like in the eyes of a potential buyer?
  2. What influence does the environment and social circle? What would your customer’s colleagues, family and friends say if your customer uses your product?
  3. What does your customer think and feel? What hopes or expectations does he have concerning your offer? Does your customer have any doubts about it?
  4. What does your customer say and do? How would your customer react when he starts using your product/service?
  5. What problems does your customer have? What can his concerns be as he uses your product or service?
  6. What advantages does your customer have? What benefits for himself does he see in using your offer/product?


As a second step you can use the answers to summarize the similarities, reveal the inconsistencies/contradictions, and dig even deeper to find out the following:

What makes your target audience tick?
What issues and challenges do they have?
What places can you reach out to your audience?
What concern can your target group have when they decide whether to buy your product?
What benefits of your product would inspire your customers most of all?

You want the Empathy Map as a functional template?

The Customer Empathy Map is now part of the Customer Insights Suite Light. This lean toolbox supports you in profiling your customers. 

Customer Empathy Map

Customer Desire Map – the map to fully embrace your customers' desires

When being introduced to Growth Hacking Workshop led by Hendrik Lennarz, whom I am happy to recommend with warmest feelings, I came across a small but fine and really useful tool. I am talking about Customer Desire Map, which can help you to easily work out the hidden desires of your potential customers. 

This map has long been among the main asset of such a world-famous marketer as Booking.com, holiday booking platform. The map presents three domains/fields in which you can immerse into your customer’s world of reasoning by using customer interviews and brainstorming techniques.

In the first domain you can filter your customer’s hopes and dreams out. What does she/he want to achieve above all in their life?
In the second domain it’s all about fears and pain. It is where you ask yourself what your customer wants to get away from, escape or avoid on the whole?
The third domain deals with uncertainty and inner barriers that customers are facing. What hinders hem to get what they strive for?

Customer Desire Map

Extreme Customers and Users

Here some insights on how to deal with so called heavy users. This is typically anyone whose position is either extremely supporting or opposing everything new, which means they either enthusiastically jump on or they move on their proven road because the new thing doesn’t seem to promise something worthy to them.

Every product and every service has this consumer type. There are only few people who really become hooked on and addicted to what you sell. They use your products on a daily basis, they know all ins and outs and they feel so devoted to your brand that even find new unusual applications for it in their lives.
However, the extreme user can also be someone who doesn’t actually seem interested in using your product. These people probably use some alternatives or a workaround or create some alternatives themselves.
Exactly here the Empathy map can lend a helping hand. In order to create such “extreme” version of your product, you have to get into your extreme user’s heads. What do they see around them? What do they feel? What do people surrounding them say? What are their concerns and pains? How can your product/service resolve it?

What do I actually need customer empathy for?

Your business has a mighty capacity for better customer understanding. The sooner you begin the better.

Business Model Design

If you integrate the findings of the customer empathy map, you can soon develop your business model and notice how your business gets a robust push. The most influential companies survive the tough competition in the business world because they devote their attention to the needs and challenges of their customers. Working on the infrastructure of your business model with the empathy map means a research with a purpose of establishing who your ideal customer actually is, what they need, what challenges or pains they have and what solutions you can come up with to respond to their challenges.
Based on this knowledge you can make more efficient steps in running your business. Do you want to develop product solutions or you can provide services? When your customer is always there, in your mind, you can clearly estimate whether you meet their expectations or you can even excel them. 

Product development

The empathy map can also be an effective assistant by development of a new product or service. It helps developers, engineers, designers, and specialists in many other fields to come closer to who their customers are, to focus on their customers, the people for whom they actually develop their products.
Ideally you start with it when you initiate a product development, and you can see how the empathy map is growing along with the product because new feedbacks start arriving that you can work with right in it.

Customer profile / Persona

Although as a rule empathy map is used to assist personal development, it can also come in handy when building a team and helping the team members to get a deeper feeling of someone else’s persona and bring them closer to actual people behind the seemingly faceless customers.

Understand customer behavior

When you have launched a new product you monitor and measure how things are used and adapted, — whether there is some room for improvement ― this is your primary task to figure out how users behave and react. Does the customer use the product the way you imagined that? If not, what are the reasons?
Maybe the customers have discovered a new way to use your product that was the part of your design? Or might there be a problem in the user interface which makes them skip some steps, taking shortcuts or completely ignore some of your product’s features or functionalities?
Working continuously on building a mutual understanding with your customers enables you to get into the minds of your users/customers. It allows you to look at your own product with the new eyes. What do my customers see and feel when they are using my product? What do they hear from their friends or colleagues who also use my product and can share their experiences?

Patterns and findings

A lot from what customers and users do is far from rational. Just get clear about it. Moreover, there is a certain regular pattern you can look at.

It’s all relative for consumers

People don’t have an internal meter or gage that would say whether a product is worth their money or can be worth. What they focus more is the relative advantage of one thing over another. Most people can’t say straight away how much a Porsche costs, but they do assume that Porsche is more expensive than Volkswagen.
It means that consumers seldom make a choice based on some absolute benchmark or understanding. Instead, they often look for something to compare. All of us seek comparisons in our daily lives. Am I taller, am I sportier, or am I more successful? Where do I position myself in terms of income as compared to the people of my age?

For product choice and purchasing process, consumers need orientation and professional advice

Nowadays, it is just not enough to set up an online shop with thousands of sun-protection products such as awnings or blinds, and hope that your website users will somehow click all the way through to add-to-car button.
Your customers expect some kind of orientation, personally or through some smart user-friendly navigation in the product page. Unless these are some really long-term customers.

Bottom Line

Consumers often don’t really know what they want, so just help them in decision making. By using an empathy map you can immerse deeper in the relationships and desires of your clients and gain truly valuable insights.
The information and insights that are usually figured out rather simply through observation and interviews with many average users can get really compressed when you deal with some exceptional users.
Many clients seem to be unable to get their preferences straight before you help them reconsider those preferences in context with other options. First, customers need a certain benchmark, a product comparison linup they can choose their favorites from.

So, start an honest dialogue with your customer, set off for your road to a better understanding and establish a fulfilling customer experience.


About Me

As a founder and entrepreneur, I experience every day how important customer centricity is for companies.

Integrate the essential customer perspective into your product genesis and marketing processes. That puts horse powers on the street, until it runs.


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