Customer Empathy

Customer Empathy


Practice the valuable behavior of deeply understanding your customers.

Reading Time

4 mins

What is this for? Empathy is at the core of Design Thinking. Being empathetic is key to solving problems from customers' perspectives. Empathy leads us to solutions of mutual-benefit. Mindset and core principles An Empathetic mindset includes: an interest or curiosity in another person's experience, an ability to suspend your own biases, and a purposeful drive to actually be "in their shoes".


In Design Thinking "empathy" means an extreme focus on the customer.

Before deciding on our own ideas and strategies we start with the customer and continue to engage them through the creative process.

This can include activities like: Interviewing your customers, observing their behaviour, and testing ideas with them.

Check out this 6-min case study video from Nordstrom Innovation Lab which shows how they researched and tested a new idea with customers in-store.

And watch this LearningLive session on the overall topic of Empathy (55min) Only available to Koch internal employees

What is Empathy?

  • Empathy is the human ability to deeply understand and share the feelings of another.
  • Sympathy is NOT empathy
  • Empathy isn't just a step in a process, it takes time and effort to instill the mindset into your everyday way of working

Why is empathy important to business?

Identifying our customers needs (especially the unarticulated ones) gives early trends that fuel transformation and innovation

The Koch vision says it in the opening line, "the role of business in society is to help people improve their lives by providing products and services they value more..."

The wants, needs, and desires of customers is driving Creative Destruction. Losing this focus threatens our ability to remain in business.

You don't find preferred partners, you become preferred partners. Think of your favorite brand and how they deeply understand you and what you want.

Words are only a fraction of the real story
Words are only a fraction of the real story

Gaining Empathy

Applying the mindset described above is all you need.

To conduct Empathy activities, identify customers and try these avenues. You can:

  • Learn ABOUT them
  • Learn WITH them
  • Try and BECOME them

* Remember, always center back on customers along the way

A framework for gaining empathy
A framework for gaining empathy

Try it now

"Immerse" yourself into a customers experience. It can be even for a few moments!

Think of a situation or activity that your customers have to go through
Then turn off your own thoughts and use all of your senses to experience someone else's experience.
Try it! Go through the steps of the activity and capture what you DO, THINK, FEEL, and SAY.
What struck you? Capture any thoughts that surprised you

Additional Resources

Recommended reading
Additional Resources
Related workshop activities