From Customer Discovery Conversations to Insight

Customer Jobs-to-be-Done in a Nutshell

Customer jobs theory provides an answer to the question: what causes a customer to purchase and use a particular product? A simple, but powerful, insight sits at the core of jobs theory: customers don’t buy products, they pull them into their lives to make progress on desired outcomes. We call this progress the ‘job’ they are trying to get done and say that customers ‘hire’ products or services to achieve or satisfy these jobs. A customer ‘job’ is defined as the progress someone is trying to make in a particular circumstance. A job always exists in a specific context. The notion of context extends to a physical location, life-stage, family status, and financial status, just to name a few.

A functional job always sits at the core but may be supplemented by emotional or social jobs the customer seeks to achieve. Describe the job using a verb-object-context structure, and simple, uncomplicated language for example;

Manage personal finances on the go.
 [verb]            [object]          [context]

When attempting to make progress on the functional job customers experience pains such as obstacles they encounter, unwanted outcomes (traumas from past experience using existing solutions), and ways in which existing solutions underperform.

Customers also seek gains in the process of achieving their jobs. Frequently these are connected to accompanying emotional or social jobs. Gains include the aspirations of customers. Describe gains starting with an adjective like better, cheaper, pretty, fast, easy.

Understanding customer jobs and the pains and gains customers experience in the process of fulfilling them is about clustering insights into a coherent picture. One way to grasp a job is to imagine you are filming a mini-documentary of a person struggling to make progress in a specific circumstance. What is that person trying to achieve? What obstacles are getting in their way? How do they define “quality”? It’s important to design with particular real customers in mind – not averages because successful innovations enable a customer’s desired progress, relieve pains, and create gains. The solution the customer pulls into their life will invariably provide the best whole experience. Designing an offering that satisfies critical functional jobs in a superior way is a necessary first step.

Mapping each Customer’s Jobs-to-be-Done, Pains & Gains

Once you’ve been outside talking to potential customers fill out a customer profile for each individual. Note;

  1. The context in which that individual is attempting to make progress on the functional job.
  2. Is it a new job for the customer?
  3. Emotional and/or social jobs connected to the critical functional job.
  4. Pains experienced in the past trying to make progress on the job.
  5. Gains sought when making progress on the job.

Do this for each and every person you talk to.

Mapping the jobs, pains and gains heard in each customer conversation.

Map the jobs, pains and gains learnt from each customer conversation.

The functional job should be the same. Look for similarities between the context, functional job, pains, gains, emotional jobs, or social jobs. Group them accordingly. It’s ok to include one customer profile in multiple groupings – you’re looking for overall patterns. You’ve probably already formed some hunches about patterns such as “a lot of people …”. See if you can prove such hunches. How many people actually match the hunch you’ve formed?

Grouping customer profiles for initial segmentation

Experiment with grouping customer profiles based on patterns of pains, gains or emotional & social jobs identified.

Create a single customer profile to describe the pattern in each group including the critical functional job, the emotional and social jobs, pains and gains.

Group customer profiles around things that are big problems (shark bites) worth solving. Avoid grouping around things that are small problems (mosquito bites) that customers don’t really show much emotion on.

Identify Shark bites & Mosquito bites

At this point break out to generate ideas for how you could help the customer (each grouping) achieve their jobs relieving the pains experienced and creating the gains sought. Do this individually; take 10 minutes to consider how you would solve that problem for the customer. To start just write down ideas that occur to you on separate sticky notes. Now share these with team members – park all sticky notes on the wall for the moment, you’ll come back to them in a bit.

Ideate with sticky notes.

The Job Journey

Next, construct the job timeline, for the critical functional job, with the following stages; first thought, passive looking, 1st event, actively looking, 2nd event, deciding, buying, consuming, and progressing. It’s important to remember that this timeline represents the stages that each individual goes through in order to make progress on their functional job.

The Customer's Journey Making Progress on the Critical Functional Job-to-be-Done

The customer’s journey to make progress on the critical functional job-to-be-done.

Now, for each person, you spoke to map the specifics at each stage of the journey and don’t forget about the context at each stage. When did it first occur to them that they should make progress on a specific goal? Why, in which context, did the thought first arise? Was it a pain (an obstacle, or bad experience), that triggered the thought? Or was it a desire for a gain? What happened in the days or weeks after that thought occurred to them, what did they see think and feel regarding the progress on the job? Did something happen to spur them on to be searching more actively? What happened? When, where? Did they encounter the same obstacle or a different issue? After that did further events transpire that really motivated them to move to decide on a ‘hiring’ a solution to the job. What happened? In which context? Did they encounter the same obstacle or a different issue? When they were deciding; what was the context, who was involved, what criteria were important to them (pains and gains)? How did they buy, when, where, who else was with them, what was their experience of purchasing, how did they feel? What was the context of consuming the goods hired to make progress on the job? How satisfied were they, what pains were relieved, what gains were created and served? How did they feel?

Map the critical functional job journey of your first customer. At each stage consider the context, the pains experienced, and the gains desired. Consider the emotional state of the customer; happy, anxious, optimistic, insecure, panicked, embarrassed.

Map 1 Customer's Job-to-be-Done Journey.

Map the first customer progress journey on the critical functional job-to-be-done.

Now go on to map the critical job journey of each person you spoke with on the same timeline.

Mapping All Customer's Job Journey

Map all customers’ journeys on the critical functional job-to-be-done.

Once you’ve mapped all the customers to the critical functional job journey look for patterns. Is there something similar about context at specific stages, are there similar pains encountered or gains sought at each stage? Which stages present the biggest opportunities to improve on? Consider the customer groups you identified in the first step. Does this group exhibit similarities when analysing their journey?

Identify Shark Bite Pains and Mosquito Bite Pains.

Discriminate between the big from the little pains experienced and gains sought.

It’s time to again generate ideas on how you can help serve the customer job. Take out the sticky notes again and each person takes 15 minutes to write down ideas on how to solve specific matters at identified stages. Add these ideas to the wall of ideas.

Ideate with sticky notes.

Now get a little more advanced. Looking at your ideas: how would you create a value proposition, what bundle of products and services can you create that relieve the pains and create the gains in the process of making progress on the job? What is the whole experience that creates value for the customer? We could also say; what interventions can you make to increase value to the customer? What form do such interventions need to take to serve the customer job; a product, a service, an experience enhancement?

Forming First Solution Hypothesis

Form first ideas for whole solutions.