What is an Empathy Interview, and what are best practices, tools and online templates for teams and organizations?
Definition of Empathy Interviews
An Empathy Interview is an open-ended conversation between two or more people with the intention of uncovering information motivations, thoughts and feelings so that innovative products and services can be created to address problems and jobs-to-be-done. Rather than obtain information from a pre-determined set of questions, the goal of an Empathy Interview is to learn the story of the customers for whom the organization is trying to create a solution to their problems. By allowing customers to share their “journey,” points of connection in the overall customer experience can be identified and the value provided through new products and services strengthened.
Description of Empathy Interviews
There are several ways to maximize the benefits of an Empathy Interview:
Interview in Pairs
In order to allow the conversation to feel the most natural without the interruption of notetaking, an interviewing partner can keep a discussion going by asking more thought provoking questions while the other takes notes. Having a partner in the process can also be helpful for discussing and finding additional insights at the conclusion of the interview. If this is not, a video or voice recorder can be used.
Just as it is the sign of a natural conversation, it is important that an empathy interview does not steer back to the same topic. Encourage interviewees to discuss topics they are passionate about as this will offer the most insight into their needs, problems and desires.
Use a Beginner’s Mindset
Interviewers should ask probing questions even about topics that seem familiar. Asking interviewees why they performed an action or feel a certain way about a topic might help them to more deeply consider their behavior.
Ask Neutral Questions
Questions should not be phrased in a way that makes it seem like there is a correct answer. Specifically, they should not have any biasing emotion language that steers the interviewees response in a positive or negative direction. Rather, the questions should be more objective so that participants can draw from their own experiences in their answer. This will allow for the most genuine responses.
Interview probes should allow the interviewer to gain a better understanding of the way that interviewee’s past experiences shaped their perception of the world, decisions and preferences. Further, participants have an easier time answering questions about previous events rather than unknown future experiences or made-up events. Sharing experiences around real events strengthens the conversation and allows for increased rapport and deeper insight.
Observe Body Language
Often, people indicate their feelings on a topic non-verbally. It is important to observe the interviewee’s body language for crossed arms, eye-contact, fidgeting, facial expressions etc. Beyond taking note of it, use this information as the basis for asking spontaneous new questions.
Interviewees sometimes need time to reflect on the questions asked of them to provide a good answer. While interviewers have an impulse to break silences by providing a response prompt, doing this can bias interviewees’ answers in the direction of the prompt. Therefore, it is important to let the interviewee break the silence themselves.
Avoid Binary Questions
Binary questions, or those that can be answered with “yes” or “no”, defeat the purpose of an empathy interview because they do not offer deep insight into an individual’s feelings thoughts and motivations. Ask open-ended questions that start with “what,” “why” and “how” instead.
Tools & Templates
The tools researchers can use for Empathy Interviews are often simple interview guide which are summarized and communicated with documents and presentations.
upBOARD's Online Empathy Interviews Tools & Templates
Unlike most traditional Empathy Interviews processes, upBOARD’s online Empathy Interviews tools allow any team or organization to instantly begin working with our web templates and input forms. Our digital platform goes far beyond other software tools by including progress dashboards, data integration from existing documents or other SaaS software, elegant intuitive designs, and full access on any desktop or mobile device.
Learn more about upBOARD’s library of other innovation management online best practice tools and templates, including:
70-20-10 Rule, Agile Innovation Process, Brainstorming, Business Case Development, Business Model Canvas, Concept Development, Concept Screening, Concept Testing, Context Canvas, Crossing the Chasm, Crowdsourcing, Customer Empathy Map, Customer Problem Statements, Design Thinking, Disruptive Innovation, Empathy Interviews, Ethnographic Research, Experiment Canvas, Innovation Funnel Management Process, Innovation Horizons Model, Innovation Matrix, Innovation Roadmap, Jobs to be Done, Lean Startup, Listening Hats, Minimum Viable Product, Open Innovation Process, Outcome Driven Innovation, Painstorming, Phases & Gates, Rapid Prototyping, Saturate and Group, SCAMPER, S-Curve Mapping, Stage Gate Process, Startup Innovation Management, Technology Life Cycle, Technology Scouting, Teece’s Win-Lose Innovation Model, Value Proposition Canvas and White Space Innovation.