Jobs theory – how people ‘hire’ and ‘fire’ products

‘Jobs theory’ or ‘Jobs-to-be-done framework’ is based on the idea that anyone hires (buys) a specific product or service to solve a problem or make life easier.

Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levit said:

People don’t want to buy an inch drill. They wanz an inch hole!

But it’s hard to imagine a person wanting an inch hole in a wall; the person probably wants to decorate their home by hanging a picture. So, understanding why a person buys a drill bit, we can offer a better solution than a hole in the wall, such as 3M company when they invented double-sided tape.

Using the theory and tools of JTBD allows businesses to correctly identify the motives and logic of appropriate customer actions in certain situations and use this knowledge to develop and promote products and services successfully.

Job theory (in the future JTBD) – has its origins in the 1980s, first formulated by Bob Most, Pam Murtotaus, and Julia Wesson, as a development of the ‘Voice of Customer’ direction in product quality management methodology – where the customer became the center that determines the quality of the product. JTBD would be further developed and popularized among business and innovation teams by Tony Ulwick, Clayton Christensen, Alan Clement, and others.

Jobs-to-be-done helps to:

  1. Create products and services that are needed and make a difference in people’s lives through a deep understanding of what people are seeking to improve in their lives.
  2. Properly package the business value proposition by emphasizing opportunities and benefits that bring the customer closer to seeing a better version of themselves in the future.
  3. Increase the conversion rate of digital touchpoints with customers and the effectiveness of advertising by communicating evaluation criteria that influence the purchase decision.
  4. Synchronize your technical, product, and marketing teams around customer needs, focusing efforts on the features and product characteristics that matter, targeting key drivers of change in target customer behavior.
  5. A deeper understanding of your company’s competitive field. Ability to see business growth points by defining what potential customers use to achieve their goals.

Jobs-to-be-done with the example of karaoke

Let’s imagine Peter. Peter likes visiting karaoke bars with his colleagues. However, he is frustrated his mates sing better than him. So Peter is thinking about improving his skills and hiring a vocal coach.

Driving across town, paying money for lessons – unlikely that Peter wants this particular activity. Instead, Peter wants to get his job done – to become more popular by improving his vocal skills.

If we were manufacturers of home karaoke systems, we could use this knowledge to develop a new product for Peter and people like him. So, for example, our new product can offer personal recommendations on improving singing. This opportunity would allow Peter to consider purchasing an in-home karaoke system as a better alternative to vocal lessons.

Why we hire and fire products

Products have no value on their own. Value is created in the context of using the product to achieve the goal of the customer.

What is the value of owning a karaoke system at home if you can’t use it through disgruntled neighbors or if it doesn’t help you sing better? First, let’s look at Jess’s story as a client of Taxi Service.

How to keep Jess? How to increase the frequency of service use? How to communicate with Tetiana?

A classic description of the CA, which Jess represents as a young woman living in NY having a family, some income, and leading an active lifestyle, will hardly be able to answer these questions.

But, having investigated, with the help of Jobs-to-be-Done interviews, the context of how Jess makes decisions, we can see that not only other taxi companies are competitors, but also alternative ways to reach the goal – to hold the meeting.
Understanding the context allows us to see different aspects of the competitive field.

Context #1 “Hiring a taxi”

Theta decides to hire a taxi service when she has an important meeting with her clients and does not want to worry about parking in Wall Street or to get nervous while waiting in traffic.

Context #2 “Hiring an electric scooter”

But if the context changes: it’s lovely weather outside, Jess wants to spend more time outdoors, is concerned with environmental issues, and the meeting isn’t very urgent – a good alternative might be to hire an electric scooter.

Context #3 “Hiring Zoom”

Bad weather, no mood to move around in the rain, the meeting doesn’t require physical presence– a Zoom conference would be a great solution to a task for Jess.
As you can see, context defines the criteria by which a user decides which product will help get their job done.

The context of product use consists of external influences, the person’s emotional state, and influences the corresponding ranking of the criteria by which the decision is made.

It’s important to remember that the customer is loyal to their work, not the product!

Products are ‘fired’ if a better way to fulfill their JTBD comes into the customer’s life. Customer ‘hires’ our product and ‘fires’ a competitor product, and vice versa.

Drivers and brakes of ‘Hiring’ new products to work

Suppose we as a business want to succeed in the marketplace with a new product or maintain our position with an existing product. In that case, we need to be aware of countervailing forces affecting the customer’s willingness to remove a new solution to get the job done.

What drives customers’ search for a new product:

  • Bad experience. People will look for a new solution when they are not satisfied with their experience with existing products.
    You are willing to consider a new brand of summer tires for your car because you have a terrible experience with the existing ones; they are stiff and “hum” at speed. This creates acoustic discomfort and reduces your enjoyment of your car.
  • Expected Convenience. A person becomes interested in trying a new one if they see the new alternative as an opportunity to improve their position relative to where they are with the existing solution.
    A person dreams of getting rid of the experience of using public transportation but has no money for a car and cannot ride a bicycle to work because there is no place to shower. The electric scooter allows the best way to do the desired job – to get to work on time, in their own strength, without having to shower and change clothes.

What keeps the customer with an existing product

  • The fear of losing existing benefits and the uncertainty of a new solution
    In behavioral economics, there is the concept of “Loss Avoidance,” when a person evaluates the risks from the loss of what he has above the potential benefits of a new opportunity. This means that this fear of loss will interfere with the customer’s decision to purchase the new product.
    The potential customer also experiences anxiety about the uncertainty of the future experience they may have by choosing a different product. Will the new solution improve his situation and help him fulfill Jobs-to-be-done?
    Will I be able to drive the scooter? Will I have enough battery power? Will I get dirty if it rains? And many other questions.
  • Existing habits and loyalties.
    What is familiar can produce, though not optimal, predictable results. In behavioral economics, there is the concept of “Status Quo Retention”-when people prefer to stay with an existing solution, even at the relatively small cost of changing to a new one. This concept is closely related to the Concept of Loss.

Habitual consumption is one of the major enemies of new products.
Even after using a new service successfully, a person can quickly revert to the familiar, old way of doing things based on pre-existing behavior habits. For example, conveniently ordering products online during quarantine and returning to the offline store, with its queues, parking problems, and lost time. Also, emotional loyalty to a particular brand will work against the new product.

Using Jobs-to-be-Done in Practice

It all starts with customer research. One technique is to conduct JTBD interviews to determine the context in which a person is motivated to seek a new solution to achieve their goal.
The question design differs from customer experience research conducted to identify problems with a particular service.

A JTBD interview focuses on the circumstances, emotions, choice process, and context of the decision to hire a product.

  • Tell us about the circumstances of the decision to (purchase) product “X”
  • What did you use?
  • Why was there a need to change anything?
  • What products did you compare with “X”?
  • How did you form your selection criteria?

The interview result is transformed into a matrix that systematizes the triggers that motivate a person to find a new solution, the criteria for evaluating alternatives, the results expected by the client, and the possibilities that do not close existing solutions.

Innovation teams use the matrix to develop new products and services, improve the existing value proposition, and communicate with customers.
When working on a new product or its features, the team forms the Jobs To Be Done Statement using the research results.

When (Triggers), I Need (Expected Result) – I Need Solution (Evaluation Criteria).

“When I have an important meeting waiting for me, I need to get to the venue quickly – I need transportation that gets me to my destination guaranteed and on time.”
The tool allows the team to focus on appropriate goals when ideating and prototyping solutions.

Summary

Jobs-to-be-Done Theory – helps you understand how and why a customer makes certain decisions in their life. Your product is “hired” by the customer to help them do their “job” to achieve improvement relative to the state they are in now. As soon as the product stops doing its best work, or the work itself changes, he is fired.

We used the following references in the preparation of this article:
Alan Klement “When Coffee & Kale Compete”
“Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done” by Intercom
Anthony Ulwick “Jobs-to-be-Done” та “Outcome-driven Innovations”
Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma”