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Interviewing Customers to Get at Their Jobs to be Done

Want to talk to your customers using the Jobs to be Done concepts first introduced by Clayton Christensen?  Not sure how to put the theory into practice?  In an earlier post I talked about how we use Jobs to be Done in our customer research, as a simple and straightforward way to frame a discussion with customers to get to the core of their needs and their struggles.

Over the years, while putting jobs theory into practice, we have come up with a conversational flow that has worked well as we interview customers specifically to understand their “jobs”.

Defining the Job – Obviously a customer won’t come out and tell you the “job” they are trying to get done.  We frame the conversation about the problem they are trying to solve or prevent, as well as what they hope to accomplish.  After the conversation we take time to analyze what we heard, uncovering a multitude of customer “jobs”.  It is critical to properly identify the job, or the solutions designed ultimately may not help the customer.

Leveraging Solutions While a job is different than a solution, there can be a benefit to learning more about the solutions a customer uses.  If we understand why a customer uses a certain solution we can better understand the job they hired the solution to do and what they hope it will do for them.   We can also understand why a certain solution may not be meeting their needs which helps zero in on specifically what they are trying, but not able, to accomplish.

Understanding the Landscape – Another piece of the customer discussion includes learning about the alternatives they have considered or tried, broader than the solution they are currently using.  We ask questions to understand what solutions customers “fire” for a particular job.  They may have “fired” other solutions that did not work, such as outdated solutions, workarounds, or the alternative of just doing nothing.

Using Storytelling – We like to have the customer tell us a story about how they made the decision on what to hire to fulfill a particular job.  By giving them the latitude to tell a story, you make room for them to reflect on what they were thinking and the specific events that occurred.  Then you can probe deeper on those thoughts and events, honing in on particular moments that triggered a change or a decision.

Truly understanding a customer’s job and the struggles they have is easier when you know what to ask.   If you want to bounce around ideas for how to frame your own research, get in touch.  We love talking jobs!

Anne Bakstad

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