Understanding people is the most valuable skill you can develop in business.

Being able to look into their context and see the world through their eyes will help you remove cognitive bias and help your business truly help your customers achieve their goals.

Empathy Mapping is a design exercise a business can use to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences their customers have in relation to the businesses offering.

It uses the Empath Map design tool to understand a customer's touchpoints during the process of customer journey mapping.

I believe it is crucial to first understand your customer by undertaking the exercise of persona development before undertaking Empathy Mapping.

Sheda uses design and emerging technologies like A.I and blockchain to solve complex problems that make and accelerate impact and bring about postive social change.

What is an empath map?

A empath map is a tool used by user experience designers, customer experience designers, founders and innovation professionals that creates an understanding of the emotional and functional context of a user while undertaking an action.

These actions can be referred to as touchpoints which are part of a customer experience.

Empath Map template. Image: SEED

How do I develop an Empath Map?

The Empath Map is most useful in relation to a touchpoint, customer job or goal.

The aim of the exercise is to understand the point of view of the customer in relation to their context.

For this example we will call our customer Tom.

Tom is a 35-year-old male who manages an employment branding company.

During the day he has a lot of meetings, he wants to provide maximum value to everyone he interacts with.

He needs to meet with a lot of people regularly to run and grow his business, he is motivated by a desire to grow as an individual and to help those around him also grow.

His outlet for this is his business.

To understand how to develop customer personas you can read this guide on persona development.

Tom has a meeting with the CEO of Nike and has just been notified that he has one hour to prepare, book a restaurant and go to the location.

1. Define the customer job

A customer job is an action or task that needs to be undertaken to help a customer achieve their goals.

The customer job Tom has to undertake is to: book a restaurant.

To understand how to a develop a customer journey map read this guide on Customer Journey Mapping.

2. Define the touchpoint

A touchpoint is the description of an instance of action a person makes while trying to achieve a social, emotional or functional job.

Ask yourself, at what point in the customer journey does this action/touchpoint fit? What is the touchpoint?

For this Empath Map we will use the example touchpoint: ‘Tom searches on Google for a “Great restaurant nearby".

Tom searching for a nearby restaurant on Google is a 'touchpoint'. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Define the context

During this action we are mapping Tom’s context; we are attempting to understand the experience that he is having.

What is he thinking/feeling?

What would be going through your head if you were the user? How would you feel if you were in the exact same situation?

Thinking - I wonder if I can get a table at Gami Chicken and Beer? I’m not sure if that will be appropriate for the CEO of Nike. I wish I had more time to organise a better option.

Feeling - Excited, anxious (due to short amount of time).

What can they see?

Contextually the customer is likely taking an action, what can they see in their physical environment?


In this instance Tom can see the search results on his laptop.

What can they hear?

What are the noises in the current environment, is music playing, maybe they are in the CBD and hear a car horn?


In this instance Tom can hear other people in his office talking, he hears a car horn outside and some music playing nearby.

What do they say or do?

In this scenario the customer usually takes action. They may interact with another person or object or change their context?

Say or do?

Tom asks his colleague Shelley if she knows any really great lunch spots that he could book within an hours notice.

Tom competes with the sounds of the city as he tries to make a decision. Photo: Facebook

3. Define the pain/gain

Understanding the context leads us to understand the emotion in that instance. We define this as pain and/or gain.

What pain is the customer feeling from this moment?

Is Tom feeling anxious because of the car horns that are blaring outside his office building? Is he pained by the amount of time he has to organise the lunch?

What gains is the customer feeling from this moment? Is he thrilled and excited by the opportunity to meet with the CEO of Nike? Is he excited by his potential opportunity to help the company.

The balance between pain and gain created during a touchpoint can be determined as a state.

4. Define the state

People are complex beings.

We can have both positive and negative emotions at the same time. To truly understand the perspective of a person we need to define their state.

That is, where do they sit in the moment (during the touchpoint). Are they in a positive or a negative state?

Each individual will have a mix of emotions.

Firstly, work though the pains from that experience and give them a score between zero (0) and negative ten (-10).

Then work through the gains in that moment giving each one a score between zero (0) and positive ten (+10).

So, an example of measuring pains:

Tom is feeling anxious because of the car horns that are blaring outside his office building = -4

Tom is frustrated by the amount of time he has to book a restaurant = -7

On the gain side:

Tom is thrilled and excited by the opportunity to meet with the CEO of Nike = 9.

To understand the state, add all of the pains and gains together which will give us a state score.

The state score for Tom at this time is - 2.

This is particularly helpful when measuring multiple touchpoints with an Empathy Map, while undertaking the process of Customer Journey Mapping.

Tom is really thrilled to be meeting with the Nike CEO, despite the rush. Photo: Unsplash


Empathy Mapping is a great way to get a snapshot of the experience someone is having in any one moment.

Understanding the sensory input and what is happening to them is key to helping them navigate in fulfilling their jobs, and ultimately, their goals.

Tools to use


Whiteboard markers.

Butchers paper.

Digital templates.

Most practical process

First sketch out the Empath Map on a whiteboard or butchers paper and refine, before adding to the above template.

Related content

Customer Journey Mapping.

Understanding Value.

The importance of understanding your customer.

How to: Business Model Canvas.

How to: Idea Validation | Introduction to Pretotyping.


Christopher Bartlett

@ Sheda

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