5 Best Practices for Empathetic Experience Design

Article Featured Image

Many companies struggle to reflect customer understanding in the experiences they create, missing out on opportunities to make customers feel heard and understood, according to a report from Forrester Research.

To capture these opportunities, companies should design for empathy in digital experiences, according to the research firm. “Understanding the customer’s perspective is the key to creating quality customer experiences. Companies that ignore empathy in digital experiences put customer trust and loyalty at risk.”

Forrester adds, “When customers believe your company understands their unique needs and feelings, they are more likely to recommend your company, try more of your products and services, and make more purchases.”

Empathy is directly linked to emotional connections, and emotion is the biggest driver of loyalty, the firm says.

Despite the importance of empathy, many companies ignore it when creating experiences, according to Forrester. “Even if you never use the word ‘empathy’ in your work when creating products or experiences, if you aim for making customers feel understood in your design decisions, then you’re designing for empathy.”

Companies tend to leave empathy out of the design process for a myriad of reasons—they have inadequate empathy practices, they misunderstand empathy, they ignore the emotional quality of the experience, or some combination of those three.

Forrester recommends that companies adopt the following five best practices to design for empathy:

  1. Immerse yourself in the problem space. Designing for empathy necessitates engaging end users throughout the design process, not just guessing what customers might be going through.
  2. Conduct research at different scales. Using a diverse set of research methods and conducting research at different levels can provide a deeper understanding of customers. For example, a credit card company found that transgender individuals were anxious about showing their payment cards due to possible discrimination when the name and gender identity didn’t match. Understanding this pain point, the card issuer started enabling card holders to display their chosen name on their cards as well as in different interaction channels.
  3. Share insights across your team and organization. Empathy can easily fall through the cracks when working with cross-functional teams. To maintain the focus on empathy, one of the teams can bring in the user perspective at each phase of product development by storytelling and sharing customer verbatim. This can result in building additional digital features to better address empathy with customers. For example, with emotionally charged interactions, it can be better to have as much self-service as possible, limiting customers’ need to interact with one or more customer service agents.
  4. Approach user experience holistically. Companies need to understand the broader context the user has while interacting with them to uncover opportunities for empathy. Journey maps can help in this regard. “Incorporate the customer’s thoughts and feelings into the journey map in order to design with the customer’s emotional state in mind. Knowing the customer’s journey in their emotional states will help determine when empathy matters the most.”
  5. Design for empathy at different magnitudes. Designing for empathy varies from industry to industry. For mortgage providers, for example, applicants will appreciate a design that simplifies the process, whereas other industries might prioritize showing that the customer is appreciated and valued.

To begin employing the five best practices, Forrester recommends the following:

  • Assess how the company applies empathy in research and design. Decisions should be made based on customer insights. Empathy should be considered across all phases of research and design.
  • Review current experience with a design-for-empathy lens. Determine what empathy means to the company. Review current experiences with this in mind to develop metrics that will track empathy in customer experiences.
  • Create an action plan to prioritize empathy in making design decisions. Ensure that your company has the resources and tools to gather customer insights and share them effectively with all stakeholders.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues
Buyer's Guide Companies Mentioned