Understanding and sharing your users thoughts and pain points
Become an advocate! Key in this area is conducting frequent usability testing and inviting both users and business stakeholders to witness the process so all the relevant people can identify more forcefully and empathise with end users:
Usability testing is sometimes seen as an independent activity,
something that’s done once or twice during a project lifecycle to
ensure users “get it,” and done separately and in isolation from the
team. It’s not part of development or design; it’s done to prove that
a concept may be used. This results in the perception that users are
"them" and ironically doesn't include them in the development process,
although users are really the major stakeholder.
Source: Usability Testing Includes Users as Stakeholders
Representing your users needs, desires and pain-points
I think you should have a combination of tools rather than a unique tool to help you represent your users and build-up empathy for them at team level and in the company as whole.Its also important that your are able to disseminate and share this information efficiently.
As you have suggested "Personas" is the obvious answer but this says more about the user/customer background than their actual journey. I would suggest using a combination of Personas and User Journeys to highlight pain-points and frustrations as in the example below:
A Customer Journey Map (CJM) is a very helpful tool that represents
the whole interaction with a product or service in a transparent
manner. It clearly points out the strengths and weaknesses of each
stage of the interaction – particularly those that affect the user
experience. In addition to this, Customer Journey Maps also show the
possibilities for improvement.
Source: Customer Journey Maps – A ‘Quick And Dirty’ Technique To Create Them
Meeting and collaborating with your users and team
Workshops are great way of gaining invaluable insights at the early stages of any project. This will be helpful both internally with your team as well as when getting direct involvement from your end-users.
Particularly the ones who are demanding/entitled with their feedback
Workshops will help in:
- Creating momentum.
- Producing a sense of shared purpose.
- Covering in one day what can take weeks or months of meetings to accomplish.
Allowing everyone to collaborate on a solution
Source: Don’t Have a Meeting, Throw a Workshop by Beth Koloski
If you are working on an enterprise solution as opposed to consumer facing product, then I would say that having these workshops is a must because your users... actually customers are particularly vulnerable; They don’t even have the freedom of choice of whether to use your product or not ( for example: Employees).
All the more reason to empathise with them!