‘People Don’t Want a Quarter-inch Drill-They Want a Quarter-Inch Hole’- Theodore Levitt

People don’t buy products and services; they hire them to get done the job that is required in their life. Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying if he’d asked his customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse. The quote is often used as an illustration of how bad customers are at telling companies what they want, therefore every entrepreneur knows that business success stems mostly from capturing ‘what is not being said’ which is sort of a blind spot which needs to be explored to capture unspoken and therefore unmet needs.

In this article, we explore the importance of moving from the “product/solution” view to the “job to be done” view and the “how to” of it. This continues from the previous article: Habit 1 – Develop Deep Empathy for Customers

What is ‘Job to be done’ (JTBD)?

JTBD is a framework for viewing the Business/ Function’s products and solutions in terms of the jobs customers are trying to get done. Customers don’t just buy products or services. They hire products or services to get functional and emotional aspects of jobs to be done. The jobs are typically solution neutral.

The first habit of “Developing deep empathy for customers” helps organizations understand the ‘jobs’ that customers are trying to get done (JTBD), the solutions they hire to get them done and the level of satisfaction they have with available solutions. It’s also prudent to find out ‘hidden desires/motives’ (intangibles) which current solutions fall short in satisfying.

Articulating the JTBD helps your organization go from an insular perspective to a customer-centric perspective.  It also helps breakthrough any psychological inertia, which is the tendency of individuals and teams to stay within the confines of what they know (typically own product features/ competitor product features) or the paradigm of their industry. By looking at the jobs in a solution-neutral way, teams can consider the ideal state—a hypothetical, imaginary and perfect experience that is free of constraints, compromises and contradictions. Hence, If you understand the jobs your customers want done, you can gain new market insights, identify new opportunities and create viable growth strategies.

Developing this as a habit requires making the shift from product to job. The mind constantly asks this question – why does the customer use this solution? What’s the job she is trying to get done?

Family of Jobs

It’s also relevant to point out that the customer jobs are spread across categories or “family of jobs” – see exhibit 1. Apart from core functional needs (which provides the functional job – eg move from point A to B, clean teeth in the morning), customers also have emotional needs. These emotional needs encompass personal and social jobs. Eg a social job could be - be perceived as having fresh breath, arrive in style (while moving from point A to B).
The main job also gives rise to ancillary or related jobs eg clean tongue while cleaning teeth in the morning, reimburse travel expense for the travel done etc.

Exhibit 1 – Family of Jobs

Steps to identify ‘Jobs To Be Done’ (JTBD)

The following key steps can be used to identify and prioritize relevant jobs -

  1. Identify themes for which customer jobs need to be identified: To ensure focused identification of jobs, it is important to establish the context and associated themes. These could be pertaining to the current business (leverage current capabilities) and/or looking at business adjacencies. Eg A pharma company could look at themes of old age, air pollution, water pollution. An auto major could look at a theme of “transporting people”.
  2. Identify a focus market: Here it is important to define the market based on the themes identified. Let’s say we want to focus on the “mass market” consisting of people in semi-urban centres of India, who wants to commute locally from point A to point B.
  3. Identify jobs that customers are trying to get done: This requires obtaining deep customer insights. Insights help us move from the “current solution” to the why of it i.e. what is the underlying customer need and what is the job the customer is trying to get done. See article on Habit 1 – Develop deep empathy for customers. Here we make a note of all the pains, frustrations, anxiety that customers go through while using existing solutions.

    Once, we complete our in-sighting, we list out all the jobs. We need to ensure that all relevant jobs “family of jobs” get identified.

    An illustration capturing customer experiences while “moving from point A to B” is summarised here –
  4. My Tryst while hiring and traveling in a hired vehicle Jobs That I Needed to Get Done (Solution Neutral)
    I didn’t get the taxi when we had to reach to the ‘boss’s daughter’s wedding’ on time (Pre-Car Era ) (Personal Job) Get a “transportation mode” instantly, the moment we are on the road
    I didn’t find a parking lot, and we missed the show by good 20 minutes or when all my office colleagues were seen in the photograph in boss’s daughter wedding except me because I reached late (Social Job) Find a place to park (Peace of Mind)
    I thought I was overcharged and hence the striking fight that I took with a taxi driver (Personal Job) Charge me fairly for the ride / Get an agreement on fare before I ride / Give me an estimate before I ride
    Driver took a long route for overcharging me (Personal Job) Let me know an optimum route
    The anxious moments that I spent not realising when I will reach the destination and should I take an alternate mode of transportation (Related Job) Inform me my expected time of arrival at the destination
    When I hired a cab for my family some people robbed my family / misbehaved with them (Social Job) Safe journey for my loved ones when I am not around in the town or traveling with them
    I couldn’t complain about the driver as I don’t know who may understand my plea and act (Related Job) Provide me means to provide feedback about the driver and the incidence
    Four of us decided to pool now I feel I am a driver and my colleagues are passengers. They call me like a taxi service while I am completing some important tasks in the office (Personal Job) Pool when I want with whom I want to (preferred)
    I pre-booked the cab with a local operator and the taxi driver just didn’t find reporting address and I missed my flight (Personal Job) Enable that my transport is able to locate me
    There were instances of disbelief on account of reimbursement amount that I claimed (Related Job) Provide me proof of travel with all details
  1. Create job statements: We need to further extract the job statements from the observations we made in step 2 above and make them simple for everybody’s understanding. This facilitates prioritization and speed of creative idea generation. Some of the job statements from above example can be e.g. Obtain proof of travel for the completed travel, Provide me entertainment as I complete my travel etc.
  2. Prioritise the JTBD opportunities: We may end up creating several job statements and therefore it becomes necessary to prioritise them as we may not able to address all the jobs at once. Prioritisation is often done by assessing JTBDs on 2 parameters viz. how important is the job to the customer and her current satisfaction level with the available solutions in the market which directly or indirectly address the job. It would be pertinent to identify these underserved jobs – see exhibit 2.
Exhibit 2 – Prioritization of Jobs: Identification of Underserved Jobs

What’s Next: Call for Action

Have you ever done such an exercise to find out

  • “What are the real jobs’ your customers are trying to get done.
  • On which of these ‘jobs’ the existing set of solutions do not meet/ meet/ exceed expectations
  • Are there set of consumers who are at present not using the current solutions because
    • they are too expensive to use,
    • customers need special skills to use the solutions
    • they are not accessible
    • there is an element of inconvenience in using the solutions

If your answer is emphatically ‘No’ to all the above points a, b, c, you may be ‘rest’ing on the edge of potential disruption and sooner or later may find yourself in ‘no man’s land’ with respect to your product/service and the market it caters to.

Incumbent leaders get so caught up making products better and serving their best customers that they fail to see the disruptions that happen because the disruptor addresses the fundamental JTBD in a new way.

To sum up, every organisation tries their best to make better products and services, which is a fair thing to do but at the same time, they need to be mindful about understanding their customers fundamental changing needs, else they may continue to be chasing the wrong goals.

Remember, habits develop only with repetitive action! So, get started and start thinking “JTBD”!