Today’s customers only want interactions that are relevant, personalized, and based on a customer’s situation and preferences. Companies that fail to provide relevant offers will be left behind. So if you want to know what your Customers want before they do, their  “jobs to be done” is a good place to start.

What are your customers' "Jobs to Be Done"?

So what are your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done” all about?

It’s the WHY someone purchases a product. A classic formulation of this is by Theodore Levitt as he says,

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

That starts to hit on the notion of the job. But it’s more than the direct outcome one is looking for from a product, as you may want to hang up a nice family picture on the wall to “cherish your memories ” and make sure they last.

So “jobs to be done” also include the consumption context and the emotional effect. Context paints the broader picture of the job to be done. The emotional effect broadens the discussion to include the experience of using the product.

Clayton Christensen provides a wonderful example of this, talking about the job that customers were "hiring" a milkshake. There was a lot more behind that purchase than its direct usage as a cold, sweet drink. Observing the company’s selling points, they saw that 40% of shakes were being bought in the early morning. The consumption context was people commuting in the morning, drinking a shake in lieu of breakfast. Because of the fact that you needed to suck a thick liquid through a thin straw gave customers something to do with their boring commute, and this was also the emotional effect of “hiring” the milkshake.


Understanding the main “job to be done”, the company could then respond by creating a morning milkshake that was even thicker (to last through a long commute) and more interesting (with chunks of fruit) than its predecessor.

Your customers' "Jobs to Be Done" and innovation

Of all the innovation insights available, the jobs-to-be-done is the most plentiful. The challenge with this feedback is that it’s buried inside people’s heads, and it must be elicited from them. 

For example, we’ve always had to transport information from point A to point B regularly at very different points in time. The Romans would use messengers to get that job done. Later on, in the Middle Ages, we would use carrier pigeons. A century ago, one way to transport information was through telegraphs, and then, at the beginning of the 20th century, telephones replaced telegraphs. Today, we use all kinds of different tools to transport information from one place to another, including emails, cell phones, and regular paper mail.

When we’re trying to develop a new product, we need to be sure that it will address a job that we try to get done in our daily lives. So, if somehow, somebody could invent a new way to transport data better than email, or cell phones, then, presumably, this kind of innovative product would easily find its market and would therefore be part of the 30% of innovative products that actually succeed.

Bottom line: an innovative product is successful if and only if it addresses a job that we are trying to get done in our daily lives regularly.

Example of your customers' "Jobs to Be Done"

Customer Complaint: “My washing machine won’t work after I use it to rinse the morning’s harvest.”

A rural farmer dialed Haier’s call center complaining that his washing machine was full of dirt and not functioning properly. When the technician visited the customer’s home, he discovered the dirt was not from the clothes the farmer wore in the field to harvest his potatoes but rather from the harvest itself.

The man had been using his washing machine to wash both clothes and potatoes. Instead of educating the farmer on how to use a washing machine properly, the technician returned to headquarters with the man’s feedback.

Haier subsequently released a washing machine capable of washing both clothes and potatoes, the 2009 upgraded version of which led Haier to become the number-one provider of laundry equipment in the entire world!


So why do people “hire” your product or service? Think about it for a moment and ask your innovation team to do the same.

Fill in the gaps: 

Why do people hire your product?

People hire [your product] to do the job of _____ every _____ when _____. The other applicants for this job are _____, _____, and _____, but [your product] will always get the job because of _____.

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