Use Empathetic Design to Provide Value to Customers

provide value to customersTonight I was watching 60 Minutes and saw a story about a company called Ideo. They use ‘design thinking’ to solve problems and create products. According to the CEO, David Kelley, they study human behavior to identify where they can improve upon a product. He calls it empathetic design.

The other interesting part is that he gathers people from diverse industries and backgrounds, puts them in a room, and has them bring their own viewpoints to problem solving.

While it was a fascinating segment it got me thinking. How well do we use empathy in our businesses? When it comes to the products we offer and the services we provide do we look at things from the client’s point of view? Do we take time to look for ways we might be able to make it easier or better for them?

I was talking with a business owner the other day about a new service they are offering. When I asked what the value of the service was, he told me the value to his company. It never crossed his mind to think about the value it brings to the client. I realized that this kind of thinking happens all the time. After all, when we try to innovate, to create products and services to sell, we think about them in terms of how they will help us be profitable. And yes, we think about them as salable.

I’m only saying that often times our thoughts are more on our company than on our client’s.

I submit that while it is critical that we make sure we are making good business decisions, we would be better off thinking first about how our products and services benefit others. When we provide value and help others solve problems we will find that we are realizing our goals. It may take a new or different way of thinking:

1. List your products/services in one column and then list the value to the client in the next column.

2. Think about ways you could enhance that value. What would it take to offer even a little bit more? And what would you gain by doing so?

3. Consider how you work with your clients and how you could improve that:

  •             How often do you meet with them?
  •             How much do you know about what they are experiencing? What they need?
  •             How involved are you in helping them problem solve?

Bring in other people to design think. Don’t limit yourself to people in your industry or people who use your product or service. As Ideo can teach us, the more diverse the more interesting the solutions.

This simple exercise conducted even twice a year can bring big results for you and your bottom line. When you can empathize with your clients you can find new solutions you hadn’t thought about before. When you work with them on this level, you deepen your value to your current clients. Their loyalty increases.  Not only are they more likely to keep you around, but they are more likely to refer you to others.

Give it a whirl and see how it works for you. I’ve already started my list.

Diverse Business Meeting Photo via Shutterstock


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

5 Reactions
  1. The most successful software products I’ve used have been developed by companies that were first seeking to meet their own needs and then began offering it to customers. Since the product was built based on their own needs, it had a very “empathic” design.

  2. Diane,

    The layout of a website has a lot to do with your customers experience. It can be the determining factor of if they’ll buy from you initially, continue to buy from you, or never buy from your at all. Thanks for sharing your insights on this topic with us.


  3. with out impressive layout it is difficult to convey the right message to the customers

  4. Diane, thanks for sharing. So, it’s called empathetic design then. I used to call it harnessing the power of Why – as in why people behave and think the way they do, and how to use it to drive growth in your business. I guess, the human mind will always be a mystery and human emotions are just as complex. In the end, it’s all about that genuine intent to add value to the table that counts.

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