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Customer experience · 

8 minutes

Cormac O'SullivanPiggy

Unlocking Understanding: The Power of Customer Empathy Maps

Understanding your customer is more important than ever. Businesses must learn to navigate their customers' minds to design products, services, and experiences that truly resonate with them. Enter customer empathy maps, a transformative tool that enables businesses to walk a mile in their customers' shoes. In this article, we will delve into the concept of customer empathy maps and illustrate their use with concrete examples.

What is a Customer Empathy Map?

Invented by visual thinker Dave Gray, a customer empathy map is a powerful tool used by product and marketing teams to gain a deeper understanding of their customers. It offers a way to visually represent customer data and insights, portraying the different facets of a customer's experience.

The empathy map is typically divided into sections representing what the customer says, thinks, does, and feels. It often also includes areas for pains (challenges or frustrations faced by the customer) and gains (what the customer wants to achieve).

The map can be populated using various methods, including user research, customer interviews, and social media analysis. This process allows teams to generate a holistic view of their target audience, reflecting both the emotional and practical aspects of the customer experience.

Why is it Important to Create Customer Empathy Maps?

Creating customer empathy maps is an essential practice for businesses seeking to truly understand their customers and improve their product or service. Here's why:

Drives Customer-Centricity

Empathy maps help shift the focus from the product to the customer. They push the team to consider the customer's perspective, fostering a customer-centric mindset that can drive the design of better, more useful products.

Fosters Cross-Functional Alignment

Empathy maps serve as a shared reference point for all team members. They ensure that everyone—from product designers to marketing executives—has the same understanding of the customer, promoting alignment and consistency across different functions.

Unearths Customer Insights

The process of creating an empathy map—gathering and analyzing user data—often brings to light new insights about the customer. These could be unmet needs, unexpected pain points, or potential opportunities for differentiation, all of which can inform the business strategy.

Facilitates Iteration

As dynamic documents, empathy maps can be updated as you gather more information about your customers. This makes them a valuable tool for continuous learning and iteration, helping businesses stay responsive to evolving customer needs.

3 Customer Empathy Map Example Templates

Now that we understand what a customer empathy map is and why it's important, let's take a look at three different empathy map templates:

1. The Original Dave Gray Template

Dave Gray's original template is the foundation for many empathy maps. It includes sections for "Says," "Thinks," "Does," and "Feels," providing a comprehensive view of the customer experience. This map is a great starting point for any team new to empathy mapping.

2. The Nielsen Norman Group Template

The Nielsen Norman Group's empathy map template adds two additional sections to the original: "Pain Points" and "Goals." This version is particularly useful for teams looking to tie their insights more directly to business outcomes.

3. The XPLANE Template

The XPLANE template further expands on the empathy map by introducing a new section for "Influences." This addition helps capture factors that may influence the customer's behavior or decision-making, providing even more context for the team.

Full Example of a Customer Empathy Map

Let's consider a hypothetical company, "FreshBasket," an online grocery delivery service. Their ideal customer persona is "Busy Betty," a working mom who values convenience and quality. Here is how FreshBasket's team might fill out a customer empathy map for Busy Betty:


  • "I don't have time to go grocery shopping after work."

  • "I prefer fresh, organic produce for my family."

  • "I find it difficult to plan meals for the whole week."


  • "Is online grocery shopping as reliable as shopping in person?"

  • "Can I trust the freshness and quality of the products?"

  • "I hope they have flexible delivery options to fit my schedule."


  • Makes list of groceries during her lunch break.

  • Researches online for meal ideas and recipes.

  • Compares different online grocery services for the best prices and options.


  • Stressed about managing her time effectively.

  • Worried about maintaining a healthy diet for her family.

  • Overwhelmed by the number of tasks she needs to juggle.

Pain Points:

  • Lack of time to physically go grocery shopping.

  • Difficulty in maintaining a balance between work, personal life, and household chores.

  • Concerns over the quality and freshness of online groceries.


  • Find a reliable online grocery service that delivers quality products.

  • Reduce the time spent on grocery shopping.

  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet for her family.


  • Positive reviews and feedback from other customers.

  • Availability of organic and fresh products.

  • Ease of use and convenience of the service.

This empathy map gives FreshBasket a holistic view of Busy Betty's experience, helping them understand her needs, fears, and desires. Armed with these insights, the team can tailor their service to meet Betty's needs, address her concerns, and ultimately win her loyalty.


Customer empathy maps are an invaluable tool in today's customer-centric business environment. They allow teams to visualize their user data and build a deeper, more nuanced understanding of their customers' experiences. By harnessing the power of empathy maps, businesses can align their teams around a shared view of the customer, unearth valuable insights, and design products and services that truly meet their customers' needs.

In the end, empathy maps are not just about understanding what customers say, do, or want. They are about stepping into the customers' shoes, seeing the world through their eyes, and, ultimately, building a relationship that is based on genuine understanding and empathy.

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