Measure Customer Progress Using A Proven Jobs-To-Be-Done Methodology


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New product success becomes predictable once you know the metrics customers use to measure progress when trying to get a job done.

People often choose to switch from one product to another when a new product helps them “make progress in a given circumstance”. This terminology is sometimes used to explain Jobs-to-be-Done Theory, but using the term “progress” to describe the goal of the customer often raises questions in the minds of product planners and others as they try to predictably conceptualize winning products.

When applying Jobs Theory with a focus on customer progress, those responsible for product innovation often struggle to answer two very important questions:

  1. How do customers define “progress?”
  2. How should customer progress be measured?

The Outcome-Driven Innovation® (ODI) process offers answers to these questions, as it provides a system for measuring customer progress in a given circumstance and for using the insights to create products and services that are far more likely to win in the marketplace.

1. How do customers define “progress?”

A company may believe its latest product has all the right features to attract buyers and a marketing message that effectively conveys the value of that product. Yet, their expectations for success often turn out to be way off. Why? Because most companies don’t know how customers actually define progress.

In studying how customers think about progress when applying a jobs-to-be-done lens, we’ve discovered that, at a high level, customers believe they have made progress when they are offered a means to get a job done better and/or more cheaply.

More specifically, we have learned that customers believe they have made progress in a given circumstance when a new product or service is created, or an existing product is improved, to help them:

  1. Get part of a job done better.
  2. Get an entire job done without having to cobble together solutions.
  3. Get a job done in many contexts with a single product.
  4. Get multiple jobs done with a single solution.
  5. Eliminate the need to execute consumption chain jobs, or get them done better.
  6. Get a job done more cheaply.

Each of these avenues represent opportunities for a company to deliver customer progress — and to grow market share and revenue. A more detailed description of these 6 avenues of customer progress is in order.

Get part of a job done better

The core functional job-to-be-done that a job executor is trying to execute in a given circumstance is often comprised of a dozen of more job (or process) steps (see Mapping the Job-to-be-Done). Customers may be struggling to execute one or two steps in a core functional job and be looking for a solution that will help them execute those steps with greater satisfaction. A solution that helps customers overcome those unique struggles enables customers to make progress.

For example, when trying to reach a destination on time (a core functional job-to-be-done) we discovered through ODI research in 2010 that customers were struggling with one specific step in that job: estimating the travel time to the desired location. Waze came along and helped people execute that step of the job with a level of satisfaction that far surpassed that of competing solutions.

Consequently, people were quick to adopt Waze because it helped them make progress — they could now satisfactorily execute a part of the job that was previously underserved. Google acquired Waze in 2013 for $966M. Helping people make progress along this dimension made Waze an attractive acquisition.

Companies can also help customers make progress by providing them with a means to get additional steps in a job done — steps that were previously ignored by an existing product. This could include addressing a previously ignored planning or confirmation step or a monitoring or modification step (see The Customer-Centered Innovation Map).

For example, Nike was among the first to help runners monitor their workouts using the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. A sensor placed in Nike shoes communicated with an iPod being worn by the runner, providing ongoing audio feedback about time, distance, pace, and calories burned.

Get an entire job done without having to cobble together solutions

Customers don’t want to cobble together multiple solutions to get an entire job done. They want one product that gets the entire job done. Unfortunately, most products only get part of a job done, forcing customers to piece together a complete solution. Creating a product that enables people to get an entire job done is a great way to help them make progress.

For example, before Nespresso came along, people who wanted to prepare a hot beverage for consumption (a job-to-be-done) had to gather the ingredients, secure the correct quantity of water, heat it to the desired temperature, and then combine and mix the ingredients and water in the right proportions to produce an acceptable beverage. This ritual often incorporated a water source (a kitchen faucet), a jar/can of coffee, a stove, a kettle to heat the water, a mug/cup and a spoon to add coffee and mix the final product.

In contrast, a single Nespresso product makes it possible to execute the entire job with the insertion of a coffee pod and the press of a button, thus helping people make progress as they begin their day with a satisfying coffee consumption experience.

When thinking about the entire job the customer is trying to get done, companies can better understand who their competitors are — they are the companies who are getting any part of the job done. The company that gets the entire job done first often has a lock on the market for years to come.

Get a job done in many contexts with a single product

It is often the case that consumers have to buy different products in order to get the same job done in different contexts or circumstances. For example, years ago it was common for people to own one camera to take indoor pictures, another camera to take pictures under water and a third camera to take pictures of objects off in the distance. But wouldn’t consumers prefer to be able to use one camera to take quality pictures in all three contexts? Indeed they would, and a product that makes that possible helps consumers make progress.

As another example, it used to be that car owners living in a cold climate would have two sets of tires for their vehicle — one for winter driving and one for the rest of the year. Manufacturer’s of multi-weather tires helped those car owners make progress by offering a product that got the same job done in both contexts.

Today, business travelers have to buy multiple products to stay connected to the internet while on a trip. Different products are often needed to stay connected while at the airport, during a flight and when in a hotel room. Hopefully, some day soon, one product will come along that gets the job done in all contexts.

Get multiple jobs done with a single solution 

Customers don’t want to have to buy separate products to execute every job they want to get done. Ideally, they’d own products that get many jobs done. Creating a product that enables people to get many jobs done is another way to help them make progress. It also helps people save time, money and storage space because they do not have to buy as many products.

Companies have created many products that get multiple jobs done. For example, Google Search, with nearly 93% market share, helps customers make progress by allowing them to get multiple jobs done through its search technology. These jobs include flight search and checking flight status, currency, unit and time conversions, finding images, obtaining a weather forecast, leaving and finding reviews for local businesses, search and book a hotel and, of course, hunt for text and publicly accessible documents offered by web servers.

As another example, farming equipment manufacturers help growers make progress by providing them with a wide variety of attachments that help them get multiple jobs done. A tractor, for example, may come with attachments for tilling, cultivating, digging and raking. This positions the tractor as a valuable platform-level solution that helps customers get many jobs done.

Lastly, people use social media products to get multiple functional jobs done, and to also get multiple emotional jobs done. Instagram users, for example, make progress because they are able to feel connected to their network of friends, be perceived as attractive, interesting, popular and engaging and avoid feeling out of touch with friends, family, and fans. Creating a product that helps customers get multiple functional and emotional jobs done is a great way to enable customer progress.

Eliminate the need to execute consumption chain jobs, or get them done better

Consumption chain jobs are associated with the product interactions that occur throughout the product lifecycle — they relate to buying, receiving, setting up, installing, interfacing with, storing, transporting, cleaning, maintaining, repairing, upgrading and disposing of a product (see Not All Jobs-to-be-Done Are Treated Alike).

While customers typically have to execute consumption chain jobs, it is often the case that they don’t want to — they are often viewed as unnecessary evils associated with using or owning certain products. This is why a solution that eliminates the need to execute one or more of these consumption chain jobs is viewed as making progress.

Uber, for example, enables a customer to get an important core functional job done (get from point A to point B), but it eliminates the consumption chain jobs associated with car ownership. Uber customers don’t have to concern themselves with parking, cleaning, maintaining or repairing the vehicle— thus helping them make progress.

Customer progress can also be achieved by helping people execute a consumption chain job better. For example, when compared to taxis, Uber makes it faster and more convenient to execute several consumption chain jobs, including acquiring and paying for the ride and estimating the fee. Consequently, customers also perceive they are making progress when they switch from taxi use to Uber.

Get a job done more cheaply

Customers want to get jobs done better and/or more cheaply (see The Jobs-to-be-Done Growth Strategy Matrix). Consequently, customers perceive they are making progress when they simply acquire a product or service that helps them get a job done more cheaply, even if it doesn’t offer any functional improvements. In fact, it is often argued that people sometimes feel like they are making progress even if a cheaper (lower price) product gets a job done worse (e.g., a disruptive innovation).

For example, community colleges initially got the education job done worse than many well-established 4-year colleges, but for a fraction of the price. Now, learning management systems have enabled students to take online courses for free — again, getting the job done arguably worse but at little or no cost to the student.

Airbnb is another example of an offering that (in many cases) gets the job done worse but more cheaply than hotels, thus helping its customers save money and make progress. As another example, people who previously used a private car service as a means of transportation often use Uber Black. Here again, they are getting the job done arguably worse, but at a significantly lower cost.

In some cases, products just get the job done more cheaply, but equally as well. Certain car manufacturers, such as Kia and Hyundai for example, provide what is arguably equal functionality when compared to rivals such as Toyota and Honda, but for a lower price.

Of course, if a company can help customers get a job done better and more cheaply, customers will perceive they are making even more progress. Amazon, for example, gets the retail job done better and more cheaply. Netflix also gets the movie rental job done better and more cheaply. We call this a dominant strategy, as it addresses the needs of both under- and overserved customers.

2. How should customer progress be measured?

When focused on getting the customer’s core functional job-to-be-done and consumption chain jobs done better, we’ve discovered that customers measure progress along 3 unique dimensions. Customers perceive that they’ve made progress along both functional and emotional dimensions when they are able to get a core or consumption job done:

  1. Faster (in less time).
  2. More predictably/reliably (without variation or things going wrong).
  3. More efficiently (without waste or loss of output/yield). 

To get a core or consumption job done perfectly, customers would have to get the job done instantaneously (in no time), with 100% predictability and with optimal output. That is the ultimate in helping customers make progress — and also satisfying their associated emotional jobs at the same time.

Because customers measure progress along the dimensions of speed, predictability and efficiency, it follows that companies must develop a set of metrics to use to be able to measure customer progress along each front. In creating the Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) process, we have done exactly that.

  • To measure “faster” we use “time” as a metric. We can then measure progress using a statement such as: minimize the time it takes to [accomplish something] [in some context] when getting a job done. For example, when parents are trying to pass on life lessons to children (a job that parents try to get done), they may want to “minimize the time it takes the child to internalize a life lesson.”
  • To measure “predictable” we use “likelihood” as a metric. We can then measure progress using a statement such as: minimize the likelihood that [some unwanted thing happens] [in some context] when getting a job done. For example, when parents are trying to pass on life lessons to children, they may want to “minimize the likelihood that the point of a life lesson is misunderstood as it is being conveyed.”
  • To measure “efficient” we again use “likelihood” as a metric. We can then measure progress using a statement such as: minimize the likelihood of [doing something that causes waste/inefficiency] [in some context] when getting a job done. For example, when parents are trying to pass on life lessons to children, they may want to “minimize the likelihood that the child feels criticized when being taught a life lesson.”

We call these three types of statements “desired outcome statements” (see Inventing the Perfect Customer Need Statement). They form the foundation for the ODI process and they enable the measurement of customer progress.

We define a desired outcome as “a metric that customers use to measure success when getting a job done.” For every market we have studied (totaling over 1000), there are usually between 75 and 150 distinct outcome statements that customers use to measure success when getting a job done. These statements are stable over time, measurable, controllable, solution agnostic and tied to the job-to-be-done.

With all those desired outcome statements in hand for a given market, a company has the information it needs to measure customer progress — one outcome at a time and collectively across all outcomes — across the entire job-to-be-done.

Measuring customer progress over time

Think about each desired outcome statement as a granular measure of customer progress. The degree to which each outcome is satisfied by a solution a customer is using establishes a baseline to measure progress in getting a job done.

For example, as shown in the diagram below, users of Solution A are shown to be satisfied to a certain degree along each desired outcome. Users of Solution B are shown to have greater levels of satisfaction along certain outcomes and less satisfaction along others. The total difference in satisfaction across all outcomes defines just how much better Solution B gets the job done over Solution A — or how much more progress it helps customers make. On the right it shows the ultimate solution (Solution N) getting the job done perfectly — satisfying all outcomes to the greatest degree — and the ultimate in making progress.

Measuring Customer Progress Using JTBD + ODI

When applying the quantitative research techniques that are part of the ODI process, (see Quantifying Your Customer’s Needs) we are able to attach statistically valid satisfaction data to each outcome, quantifying just how much better one solution is over the other (and by how much). When looking across all outcomes, it becomes possible to measure how much better in total one solution is over the other — or how much more progress it helps customers make. 

The real beauty of the ODI process, however, is that it provides companies with a method to estimate and evaluate just how much more progress a customer is able to make with a new solution under consideration BEFORE the solution is approved for development. It is this capability that brings predictability to innovation and helps companies understand and predict customer choice.


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