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Shifting Thinking

Understanding Customers to Create Value - Part 1

Dale Koerner
Published by: Dale Koerner

An Introduction to Jobs to Be Done

Sometimes understanding your customers can seem like an insurmountable task…

While embracing a customer-centric approach across your entire organisation is an important first step on the path to creating value, further investigation is necessary in order to secure real insights into why your customers make the choices that they do… into why they should choose you and not your competition.

We often start by looking at what they want, or what they say they want, but that doesn’t really delve deep enough and get to the root of the matter. In order to get real insights into your customers’ thinking and behaviour you have to dive deeper and take an honest look at not only what they want, but at why they want it… at what they are trying to achieve.

However, when venturing down the rabbit hole in search of customer motivation it’s easy to lose your way. But all is not lost… there is a helpful technique that can help guide you on your journey and assist you with uncovering the ever elusive ‘why’ that informs your customers’ behaviour.

Enter your ace in the hole, Jobs to Be Done.


Getting Started with Jobs to Be Done

If you consider some of the most popular products or services on the market today, the unique offerings that stand above the competition and seem impervious to emulation or disruption, their success is rarely due to any specific attribute or feature. Instead, they can track their success back to the people that seek them out, use them, recommend them, and even idolise them… all because these offerings fulfil a specific need or solve a specific problem that customers are facing and trying to overcome in their everyday lives.

Jobs to Be Done theory gives you a roadmap to exploring your customers’ motivations and helping them to solve their problems and achieve their goals. It provides insights into the ‘jobs’ that they need done, enabling you to make a true difference in their lives.

In this context, a ‘job’ is shorthand for what a customer is really trying to achieve or accomplish in a given set of circumstances. They are looking for a solution that addresses their specific problem and does their ‘job’… and while there are a multitude of options out there for them to choose from… they will only ‘hire’ the one that they feel does their job the best.

For example, when you take the train to work the job to be done isn’t taking the train.



The train is just a mode of transportation and the reason that you ‘hire’ the train instead of driving yourself, taking the bus, hailing a cab, or even walking is based on your true job to be done. If you are looking for some extra time in your day where you can kick back and relax or get some work done instead of spending your time sitting behind the wheel in traffic then the train might be ideal. However, if you want to enjoy the weather and get some exercise every morning you might hire your bicycle or walking instead.

By understanding and applying Jobs to Be Done you can align your business with your customers, stimulate innovation, and uncover customer insights, which in turn will allow you to differentiate your offerings in ways that are difficult for your competitors to copy – or even comprehend – creating a distinct competitive advantage.

This type of customer-centric innovation enables you to help your customers complete their jobs and progress. True innovation is not the pursuit of new products… it is the pursuit of new solutions, creating something new that fulfils an important need for your customers. It solves the problems that appear to have no solutions, or only severely inadequate ones, and facilitates the customer’s journey by addressing their jobs to be done and improving the quality of their lives.


"An innovation will get traction only if it helps people get something that they're already doing in their lives done better."
— Clayton M. Christensen


By addressing your customers’ specific jobs to be done, you will gain a better understanding of their needs and uncover insights into the behaviours and motivations that drive them to purchase, repurchase, and promote your products or services.

Customer jobs can be complex and multi-faceted and, at first glance, uncovering them can feel a bit overwhelming, if not outright daunting. However, there are some definite things that you can do that will help you get started on the path to gaining a better understanding of your customers and the needs, wants, and motivations that underlie their jobs to be done.


Up Next:

Understanding Customers to Create Value - Part 2
Becoming a ‘Jobs’ Sleuth: 4 Common Approaches that Can Mislead

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