Using Empathy to Better Know Our Members’ Needs

What is design thinking and how can it help us better understand our members’ needs?

I recently attended a workshop on “design thinking.” The concept was explained to me as way to gain empathy for our customers, and then out of that empathy, to create an experience that not only satisfies your members’ needs and wants, but hopefully gives them some bonuses they didn’t expect. Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

In this article, I am going to take what I learned in this workshop and apply it to the indoor cycling studio. If we get to know our members in this way and truly have empathy for them—realizing that they are people with sometimes complicated, difficult, and stressful lives outside of our classes—we will naturally design an experience that better fits them, and then gives them reasons to keep coming back. Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?


Before we begin, you will need to grab a couple clean sheets of paper and a few colored pens or markers. This is an interactive article where I’m asking you to follow my line of questioning and write down your thoughts. Plan to spend 15–20 minutes doing this exercise, longer if you really get into it. You’ll have to trust me that this will be worth the effort. And personally, I love an excuse to use colored Sharpies! Let’s get started!

design thinking to understand member's needs
Customer profiles

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