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Businesses are tuning into the importance of truly understanding their customers, anticipating their needs, and meeting them. Much like a toddler who suddenly gains empathy, the ability to look at situations from another’s perspectives, businesses are gaining user insights, enabling them to really put themselves in their customer’s shoes.
To effectively conduct user-research strategies, develop needed changes, and then implement these changes; a Product Manager is so incredibly valuable. Understanding the entire product roadmap, managing user inputs and ensuring multiple stakeholders’ interests are taken into account; a product manager‘s most valuable trait is to understand the drivers and incentives of customers and internal stakeholders. When pitching changes and co-ordinating changes across teams, product managers put themselves in other’s shoes.
Similar to Service Designers and User-Experience Designers, Product Managers keep customer experience at the fore. Product managers take it a step further, by using empathy within a company to justify decisions and understanding how to best manage teams and best improve a customer’s experience. Holly Joshi explains product management as ‘the strategic mindset at the centre of business activity’.
When improving the product, empathy needs to be front-and-centre. With entire teams dedicated to improving customer experience and analysing where and how changes should be made (think Service Design and User Experience Design), companies that rapidly iterate and adapt to change are better set-up to stay relevant; responding to changing consumer behaviour and wants. Often customers THINK they know what they want, but dig a bit deeper and you’ll find they aren’t always aware of their true motivators. As part of user-research, designers need to go past these surface desires and drill down into the real motivators of their customers.
The biggest design mistake is designing for yourself. User-centric design isn’t exactly new – in fact, all design should be user-centric by default. The underlying goodness of design, creating useful, thoughtful, beautiful things, at some point got lost; we saw a common misconception emerge, that design=aesthetic . At the core of user-centric design is empathy; taking the time to understand the user, and design for their needs to create things that are actually useful. In the context of design, empathy is not simply imagining how a user thinks and feels – this ultimately relies on assumptions and thus your own personal experience largely influences the outcome. Empathy, in the context of design, is an understanding based on thorough, pointed, user-research.
A study of over 600 companies showed that those in the top quartile in organisation health, registered two times higher in financial performance. Empathetic leaders, happy employees and a healthy work environment all make for a higher-performing company. Though empathy is intrinsic, it doesn’t always show at work; measures of performance, reward systems and overall culture don’t reward individuals for empathy. To cultivate an empathetic workplace, leaders need to be role-models to the rest of the company, and actively try to implement human connection in their business
There are quantifiable results supporting the importance of empathy mapping. Businesses that don’t think about their customers and their employees will get left behind. Though financial incentives are fuelling this push, it’s still a step in the right direction; we hope to see a mass cultural shift towards empathy. Embedded in a business’ work environment and team culture, used to create better products, and to coordinate valuable changes to a business’ entire product offering; empathy creates better businesses.