Over the years I have sat in boardrooms with a lot of nice, smart people, taking about the customer. We talk at length about who they are, what they like and their relationship (if any) they have with brands.

However, we are in a boardroom, not in a shopping aisle, with a screaming child and a hunger in our belly. This is where we all need to practice a little more empathy - because not only could it make you a nicer person, but it can really help your business goals.

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
— Empathy - The Oxford Dictionary

When I lived in France, and in later years, New York, one of the weekly routines was dragging a bag of clothes to the laverie (or laundrette). With no distracting smartphone at the time, and a need to wait around for my clothes to dry, I used to sit and watch people coming in and out. People form Spanish Harlem or the town of Bayonne would come in - different faces, family sizes, worried expressions or curious smiles. This simple observation may not have given great insight into these people, but this memory reminds me how we all need to step out of the boardroom, and consider the lives of other other people.

When we understand the emotions and possible motivations of other people, we are better placed to respond to their need states. We must actively listen to people and where possible share the feelings they have. If they are frustrated with your product packaging, fix it; if they hate the complex layout of your website, redesign it; if they simply want to be rewarded for using your brand, reward them.

Quite simply, designing solutions for people is about putting yourself in their shoes. Thinking about the environment they'll be in, the emotions they might be feeling or what they are trying to achieve. Asking and experiencing this will create better products, services and communications for your brand and your customer.


Further Reading:

Empathy in Design - handy models

Pic credit: www.gratisography.com