#empathymapping

Last week I spent 2 days in Paris, welcoming the new General Manager, for Audio Network’s recently acquired, subsidiary in France. We currently have a small Sales team who joined, as part of the acquisition and part of my role has been to help integrate their operations with that of the Group.

One of the areas that we wanted to focus on was how to build up our marketing activity in France, to help with the acquisition and retention of clients. As part of our adoption of user-centred design at Audio Network, we have been keen to move away from solution-orientated discussions and instead shift them back towards trying to understand what are the problems we are trying to solve; and specifically for whom.

With that in mind, I planned a very rapid session to look at our key customer groups, understand which roles existed within those sectors, how we would priortise them; and ultimately what the needs of those individuals were, that might affect how we would work with them in the future.

The following covers off the key stages of this project; and some observations on how that session worked / any follow up actions or learnings.

Who are we working with?

Audio Network licenses music to content producers all over the World. We work with many different organisations — from huge multinational Broadcasters, to up-and-coming YouTube Creators and everyone in between.

The first task of this exercise was to narrow our scope — choosing just two of the main sectors that we service.

Typical Advertising Production Workflow

The next was to look at these segments and to map out all of the key players that may have an influence on how music is chosen through the production process. The image demonstrates our understanding of a typical advertising workflow, within the French market, using hypothetical companies to illustrate the process. Within this workflow, we identified that up to seven “stakeholder roles” could in principle influence the choice of music, within an advertising production.

We then looked at these roles and asked the team to describe their purpose within the production process and to order them in order of “highest significance” to Audio Network. All of this work was done pre-workshop in order to allow us to utilise limited available time when together, in the room.

Workshop introduction

Despite being a very relaxed company, I was conscious that we were working with a relatively new team in the presence of their new boss. With this in mind I wanted to ensure that we kicked off this session in the right way. I’m a big fan of Ice-Breakers especially when, as facilitator I don’t have to participate. For this session I used one out of the Hyper Island toolkit called Hello Kitty. My observation is that it served it’s purpose, but perhaps needed more than the 6 participants we had to really work properly — also the relatively small meeting room, probably didn’t create the best physical environment.

The next stage of work “proper”, was for the guys to present back their descriptions of what each of the key roles did, within the chosen segments and recommendations of a #1 “stakeholder role” from each of them for us to focus on in the rest of the session.

Empathy Maps

Empathy maps are a great way to quickly visualise a user’s needs. They are perfect to use at the start of a design process and can be built upon, once you develop a more rounded and proven understanding of your end user. They are pretty accessible to all stakeholders (i.e. you don’t need to be a UX designer to create one). And finally, they really help internal stakeholders to think beyond their own immediate experiences. This last point is super important to me for this reason:

Sales people are placed ideally to act as conduits within a user-centred organisation, feeding deep and regular insights of customer’s needs back into their colleagues. The challenge is that often their perspectives can be limited by very specific incentives, unless supported to think more holistically. This means that, without care, huge value can be lost from the group who has by far the most interactions with the customer, as part of their core duties.

Borrowed from Adapting empathy maps for UX design.” Paul Boag (boagworld).

This blog post by Jerry Coa gives a practical guide to using empathy maps, covering the when, how and what next.

For our workshop we used an adapted version of the shown template. Focusing on:

  1. Tasks
  2. Feelings
  3. Influences
  4. Pain Points

The guidance I gave was to think entirely generally for the first three, but for Pain Points to think more specifically about pain points they might experience specifically when finding, using or licensing music. This slightly compromises the true spirit of thinking holistically about their needs, but was essential to ensuring we could get tangible outcomes at the end of our session.

I gave the teams around 40 minutes to create these empathy maps, working in pairs across their two segments. This is slightly longer than might normally be needed, but I was conscious that I was asking them to do this in a second language and to describe very specific emotional responses that might be difficult to translate immediately.

We concluded this activity by feeding the results back in an open forum. Each pair read out the things they had written first and then we allowed 10 minutes of open questioning for each. I was really impressed that we ended up getting into some really interesting details about our “personas”, such as where they holidayed, what cars they drove and even whom in the industry they would likely turn to in a moment of professional difficulty.

Borrowed from Johanna Koll

How might we…

The final stage of our workshop, was to try and synthesise our understanding of our chosen users into practical questions about how we could improve their experience of using our service, within context of their needs.

For this task I gave the groups around 20 minutes to write their “How might we…” statements; and again allowed for time at the end for the pairs to present back and for us to discuss as a group.

Overall I was really pleased with the statements that were created; and it demonstrated that the team we’re indeed looking at the needs of their two fictional users in a much more rounded way than they may have prior to the session.

We agree that they needed some more work; and the team have taken that on as a task to be completed outside of the workshop. One pair’s statement, definitely felt that it was too general; and not linked back to a specific tangible use case or moment in time. The other struggled to hone in on the true purpose of the statement — i.e. it referenced multiple stakeholders in the process who’s value creation may have been described in the wrong order.

Upon reflection I felt that to have skipped over the activity of creating a Customer Journey Map, showing how those users engaged with music, within their production workflow, made the “How might we…” task quite difficult to execute with the correct framing for the team’s thinking. I am planning on repeating this task with a team in Munich and will therefore extend the workshop, to allow sufficient time to add this stage.