Customer Empathy: The Key to a Successful Business Innovation

ben francia | by Ben Francia | Last Updated: January 10, 2013

CC image by courtesy of FogFish

iTunes by far could be the most popular digital media player in the planet right now. Back in the day when digital piracy in the music industry is so rampant especially with the availability of cool software allowing people to download every song that they can think of, companies in the same industry argued that consumers won’t pay for digital music downloads specially if they can get it for free through file sharing sites and services.

Apple on the other hand thought otherwise.

Coming from a deep understanding of their target customers, Apple knew that what people want is a user-friendly way to search, download, organize and conveniently play digital music, to the extent that they are even willing to pay for such a solution.

It was not a hunch. Apple stepped in to the shoes of their customers and empathized with their needs, wants, pains and aspirations. They then designed a digital media player solution that would allow music lovers, young and old, to easily search, download and organize their favorite songs. The iTunes store was designed and integrated to the media player for easy purchase at close to insignificant costs. And of course this whole set up seamlessly syncs with mobile portable media player devices which lead to one of the most successful and innovative product in digital history: The iPod.

And with that, Apple’s iTunes media player dominated the digital music market, making both music lovers and music producers happy, and our old friend Steve Jobs a couple of millions richer.

To help you understand and empathize with your customers, I’ve created a mind map of the Customer Empathy Map which was based on the book Business Model Generation. You can download a PDF version of this mind map from this link. Check out also the short video I created below showing the content of this mind map:


Do this exercise and you will surely develop a new perspective on how you do business. Answer the questions provided. Conduct a customer survey. Organize a focus group discussion. Brainstorm with your business partners. Go on a business planning retreat and do this exercise with much focus. Then write down the answers to the questions in the mind map and don’t just let the answers float in the air. It doesn’t matter where and how you do this exercise. What’s important is that you do it and write down (document) your answers, even if it’s on a piece of table napkin.

Do this and you are surely on your way to be an innovative business (like Apple) that provides solutions that people are really looking for and creates a tribe of loyal and happy customers.



I’m having a seminar about how to get clients and leads online. If you’re interested to learn more, just sign up here:


Jeff Aspacio

Thank you very much for the insights you shared in our ecommerce class and this blog post. I'm devouring lots of very helpful information.

2015-02-16 18:48:47

Customer Empathy Mind Map and My Kawit Cavite Business Trip | Carlo Angelo Gonzales

[...] awesome Internet entrepreneur and authority in all things Internet business in the Philippines told me that customer empathy (and [...]

2013-01-13 10:35:44

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