Getting Started with Client Empathy Mapping

March 1, 2018


That’s a tough word. It might even be frightening.

Don’t worry. We’ll get through this together.

Client Empathy Mapping (CEM) is a fairly simple exercise that will transform your firm's way of thinking about how you engage with your clients. It will create awareness, build value and allow you to design a framework and process to consistently understand (empathize) and anticipate what your clients want, need, and expect. It involves no slides, no presentations, and no boring lectures. In fact, it's engaging and fun.

A complete CEM workshop can be completed in about three hours. It typically includes two phases: a practice round for those new to the process followed by a practical round where your team applies the process to a real-world business situation within your firm.

No Preparation Required

No preparation is necessary when doing a Client Empathy Mapping workshop, except for the facilitator. In fact, when we serve as facilitators, we tell teams to simply show up with an open mind and a willingness to participate. We use the practice exercise to make sure everyone understands how the process works. This exercise uses a potential experience everyone is familiar with so nobody has to imagine how someone else feels.

For example, we often ask participants to imagine they would like to take someone out for a special occasion dinner. Whether it’s an anniversary or mom’s birthday doesn’t matter. We ask everyone to get in mind the process they will go through to plan, execute, and wrap up the meal. Here are the steps:

First, you are ENTICED with options. You have hope for a nice dinner and explore several potential dining options.

Second, you are making a reservation – you are ENTERING into a business transaction.

Third, you are at the restaurant, ENGAGED in the dining experience.

Fourth, you are wrapping up the meal and EXITING the experience.

Finally, you may EXTEND the experience with post-meal thoughts, feelings, and sentiments.

These five phases model every business interaction – whether it’s a restaurant, an engineering firm, or any other type of exchange.

During the practice session, we map each of these phases for your imagined dining experience.

Within each phase, you and your colleagues will brainstorm the following "what" questions:

  • Questions do I have?
  • Are my needs?
  • Might I be thinking (positive/negative)?
  • Am I feeling (positive/negative)?
  • Can I say (positive/negative)?
  • Am I doing (positive/negative)?

After about an hour, teams have typically developed the experience map of an ideal restaurant – and likely find they've invented a better restaurant than has ever existed.

Mapping Your Clients' Experience

Equipped with the process fundamentals, we move on to practicing real empathy. As a group, your team will create a client persona. This is either a real client – a person, not a company – or it is someone that represents a common type of person you serve. After creating a client persona, your team will apply the same questions to the five client phases associated with this persona's engagement with your firm.

You and your team will then answer these questions for each phase as if you were that person.

The outcome will be an empathy map for that persona, with prioritized action items to improve that persona’s experience.

Are You Ready to Get Started?

There are numerous ways Client Empathy Maps can benefit your firm. Click here to download the Getting Started with Client Empathy Mapping step-by-step guide. Here are eight situations our clients have told us they have taken advantage of this tool:

  • Kickstarting a Client Experience Program
  • Pursuing a major project/opportunity
  • Entering a new market
  • Desire to increase the share of wallet with a key client
  • Onboarding a new client
  • Hiring a new client-facing team member
  • The increasing concern of competition
  • Client attrition

Questions. We're here to help. Give us a call at 866.433.7322 or email

Want to experience Client Empathy Mapping and bring it back to your firm? Join us at CXps 2018 where we are offering a 3-hour Client Empathy Mapping Workshop.

Ryan Suydam

Ryan Suydam co-founded Client Savvy in 2004, to help firms create fierce client loyalty by designing, implementing, and measuring client experiences. He has coached nearly 700 organizations and over 30,000 professionals on the skills required to be “client savvy.”

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