Designing for Customer Empathy
Creating a client persona is an important step in problem solving and relationship building.

Wednesday’s RECONVERGE:G2 presentations concluded with a session by Kathy Henrich and Kim Rosengren who spoke to customer empathy.

Design thinking process—

Started in 2005 at Stanford; a proven methodology to recreate.  It as an infinity loop.

Identifying the target market and speaking to it from an unknown perspective (attempting to imagine the market’s circumstances) is a fine idea, but one needs to know whether they are “truly grounded in the client,”

If you do not know what the client basically wants, in-depth scenarios will be useless.

The first step in design thinking is to empathize, then, and to gain understanding of what the market is wanting and doing.

The next step is to define this group and assign a persona; know their aspirations, pain points, etc.

Step three is to prototype: build something in an agile methodology, in a place for continuous improvement.

The final piece is to test the product.

An example is US healthcare costs:

$3.3 trillion in 2016

4.3% increase over 2015

$5.7 trillion: expected 2026 costs

Per capita, health care spend was $10348

Health spending will grow 1% faster than GDP

How are we paying for it?


60% covered via employers

$18,764 is the average family premium

Because employers shoulder the burden of costs, they are offering wellness programs to reduce costs, ranging from 60% who do health risk assessments, to 53% offering biometric screening tests, to about 70% who have helped employees lose weight.

Companies tend to offer smoking cessation or weight loss programs prior to raising rates.

Diabetes type two is a leading cause of death today, and expensive: the average treatment costs was $13,700 in 2015.

Conditions causing the disease: overweight, physically inactive, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high glucose levels.

A sample patient is Joel: 42 years old, played college football, is slightly overweight, having gained 25 pounds over 20 years.  He is a logistical planner for the city and works 10-12 hour days.

A healthcare provider reviews his statistics and predicts having a discussion on diet and exercise, but an in-person visit shows weight gain around the middle.  The suspicion is metabolic syndrome.

Contributing lifestyle factors are long workdays, poor diet, and lack of exercise.

The doctor orders more tests and inquires about the status of his life insurance, because a diagnosis of diabetes will raise rates for it.

A referral is made for diabetic education.  The provider prescribes medications, and orders anxiety/depression screening.  She requests a 30-day follow-up.

Resources Joel can use to be healthier include a diabetic management program through his health insurance.  He would be assigned a case manager who could suggest technologies to track his progress and enroll him in special incentive programs to help.

As a result, a lot of data can be gathered for analysis.  Artificial intelligence can provide opportunity for personalized interaction, clinical trial matching, and so on.

The challenge is taking a specific profile and matching it to specific trials.

Only about 10% of people who could participate in trials actually do, mostly because patients do not have awareness of trials available.

Considering design thinking in this scenario has three steps:

  • First, consider Joel. What is he thinking?
  • Second, create a problem statement—”go big and bring it back.”
  • Ideate around solutions.

Conference attendees had the opportunity to test design thinking in a group exercise using the scenario of Joel and his diabetes diagnosis.

Empathy Map

Say, think, do, feel.  Begin to think about what this person is saying, what are they thinking, doing, and feeling.


  • It is difficult to design for a single persona—there are many variables
  • Motivations may be similar and influential in all four categories (fear, denial, etc)
  • It is important to consider impact on family, friends

Defining the problem

It is important to prioritize and choose the most important consideration to solve for the client.  What is important?  Why?  What evidence exists?

Define the problem statement as follows:

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_________________(user)_______________needs to___________________(need)____




“Go big” with as many as ideas as possible—they can be wild and crazy.  Also, be visual, build on the ideas of others, defer judgment, and keep it user-centric.

One observation is that groups may be burdened with potential obstacles.  Supposed barriers need to be “put in a box” so as not to inhibit the ideation process.

Another is that designers need to think about what is required to make solutions do-able.

Also, designers will have different priorities depending on their connection to the client—Joel’s insurance carrier may have a solution that varies from his employer.

Design thinking puts client insights into war game.