Every product or service bought or consumed has a need, purpose or ‘job’ that it is ‘hired’ to fulfill. Even a milkshake has a ‘job-to-be-done’. The ‘jobs-to-be-done’ framework is a Service Design tool that helps uncover a customer’s functional, social, personal, and emotional needs that a product or service can fulfil.

The ‘jobs-to-be-done’ framework:

In his book, Competing Against Luck, Clayton Christensen explains the concept of ‘Jobs-to-be-Done’ with the example of a McDonald’s store that was looking to improve their milkshake sales. After testing various components of the recipe and store experience, milkshake sales remained unchanged. Christensen’s team observed the lifestyle, interactions and consumption choices of every consumer that purchased a milkshake, and discovered:

  • Over half of all milkshakes were purchased before 8:30 am
  • Consumers who purchased milkshakes were alone
  • Consumers always got into a car and drove off after a milkshake purchase

After customer interviews, Christensen’s team uncovered that people who purchased milkshakes did so to keep them occupied during a long morning commute to work, or to keep full until lunchtime.

This simple insight was a game changer. Christensen explains that the milkshake had a specific ‘job to be done’: cure boredom and provide sustenance during a mundane morning commute. It was was for this reason, customers ‘hired’ a McDonald’s milkshake and from the customer’s point of view, it was a job that a bagel, banana or other alternatives could not fulfil.  

There is a job out there that arises in people’s life on occasion, that causes them to need to buy a milkshake, and we need to understand this job,” explained Christensen.

You can only understand how to improve the marketing of a product or service when you understand the job that needs to be done.

What are the benefits of jobs to be done?  

Ultimately, the goal of uncovering a user’s ‘job to be done’ is to create, promote or innovative a product or service to fulfil a ‘job’ for a customer. The benefits of understanding a customer’s job to be done include:

  • Delivering true customer value: By identifying a customer’s ‘job-to-be-done’, Service Designers are better placed to deliver value.

    For example, the desire to eat healthier is often inhibited by convenience and a time-poor environment meaning more people are likely to get takeout. Making healthier food more convenient and cheaper to access has huge appeal and solves multiple pain points. By exploring a customer’s job to be done, Service Designers are able to adopt a needs-first approach and tailor the best solution that addresses customer pain points.
  • Prioritisation of tasks: With an understanding of a customer’s needs, the ‘jobs to be done’ framework can help prioritise the tasks that deliver the greatest value (such as through the creation of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
  • Reducing waste: Rather than creating ‘perfect’ features, identifying a customer’s ‘job-to-be-done’ removes the production of anything that does not align to a customer’s core needs and therefore wastage. 
  • Aligning business functions to a single cause:  A customer’s ‘job-to-be-done’ forms a product roadmap that can be used to align the marketing, development, and research into building these solutions to systematically creates customer value as you tackle their needs and unmet ones.

Understanding a customer’s job to done is extremely valuable for Service Designers to understand the true function of a product or service. Expand your toolkit and learn more about Service Design with the free guide here.

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