Dawn Ressel

Customer Empathy Program

The Problem

I was the first design leader for our central technology group, a 500 person organization within Intuit. The vast majority of our employees were back end engineers, and they had never worked with a UX team before. More importantly, they had very little understanding of our customers and their needs. Over the course of two years, I drove the initiative called our "Customer Empathy" project, which brought customer insights and empathy to our large organization in methods that scaled, such as large group training sessions and hands-on activities. This deck includes an overview of the program and my approach.


Over the course of two years, we trained all 500 of our engineers in understanding all of Intuit's key customer segments: small business owners, accountants, and consumers. We used a variety of methods, including large group trainings, self-service trainings, customer office hours, and workshops to develop interview skills. The program was designed to be lead over a multi-stage, multi-year journey. I managed the roadmap for the program and assessed where the maturity of the organization was in relation to empathy and what methods would be best to meet our program goals. We piloted and iterated on every method we rolled out to learn how to become more effective over time.

Process and Documents

Everything we created for the Customer Empathy project was meant to have broad reach over our entire organization. In fact, many other groups at Intuit heard what we were doing and wanted to leverage our materials, so it actually became necessary for everything to scale company-wide, so we had a self-service aspect to this program. These samples show examples of artifacts and experiences we created.

  • Video: A small business user, Mary. We showed this to all 500 of our employees as part of a small business training.
  • Video: Accountant empathy exercise. We conducted hands-on training in group sessions where employees went through a simulated experience to feel the pain of an accountant during tax season: stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed. The employees were able to related to accountants in a meaningful way after this experience.
  • Deck: Listening Workshop We created this in-person training that got rolled out to all 500 employees which shared best practices on how to listen to your users to get insights.

This is a podcast I was interviewed in about the customer empathy project at Intuit, along with my researcher Kristy. AUDIO: Customer Empathy Project podcast.