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Jobs to Be Done

The “Jobs to Be Done” Theory states that consumers only purchase (or hire) a product to a do a job for them. These “jobs” can be small (passing time while waiting in line), or big (finding a more fulfilling career). Some jobs have a level of surface unpredictability (finding a suit for an out-of-town event after the airline lost your luggage), some are regular (packing a healthy lunch option for my daughter to take to school).

If we “hire” a product or service to do a job for us and it does well, we tend to employ it again if confronted with the same or similar jobs. If it does not do well, we will “fire” it and look for an alternative. When evaluating what jobs need to be done, we want to look for jobs that have inadequate solutions or no solutions at all.

One real world product example is a condominium complex designed for retirees looking to downsize. The developer surveyed the community to see what they would want out of their ideal condominium. Some of the top preferences were open floor plans, new appliances, and well-maintained amenities. The complex marketed itself as a new build, mid to high-end housing option with up-to-date appliances, spacious open concept kitchens/living rooms, larger guest rooms and bathrooms, top-notch amenities, and a safe area of town. Many people were interested in these condos and even took tours of multiple units. However, a low number of these “tire kickers” actually purchased a condo. Management at the complex decided that large bay windows in the units would attract more buyers. However, even after the bay windows were added, sales still did not meet expectations. New management took a different approach. Instead of surveying potential new customers on what features or amenities they would want, they surveyed existing condo owners to find out some of the reasons why they decided to purchase the condo. Interestingly, instead of the modern floor plan, bay windows, or amenities being the reason for purchasing the condo, the most common reason was that there was enough room for their dining room table. It turns out downsizing was much easier said than done. Dining room tables are often passed down generation to generation. However, this is contingent upon their children or grandchildren being able to take possession of this large bulky piece of furniture at the exact time they would like to downsize. The alternative is to throw the table away. This proved very hard to do for this population. When thinking about the life of a dining table, it has seen countless Christmas and thanksgiving dinners, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. The dining table has more sentimental value than most objects, and seniors found it hard to just throw it away. The new management team took this information and decided to revamp some of the floor plans to allow for a dining table by taking space from the 2nd bedroom, providing moving services, providing 2 years of free storage, as well as a sorting room within the complex where new owners could take their time making decisions about what to discard. Almost immediately sales on the condos went up and they were actually able to raise prices. The new management at this condo complex recognized a problem that was not readily identified by potential buyers and provided a better solution than the alternative.

You might be asking “Jacob, why are you we talking about condominium sales? I provide behavioral health services!” My response would be, “Do your referral sources have an inadequate solution to their patient’s mental health challenges? Do you know why your patients (customers) access your services? Do your referral sources send you patients for the reasons you think they do?” Similar to the potential condo buyers in the previous example, your referral sources might not recognize the “job” they need done because there hasn’t been an adequate solution presented to them yet. Your patients might not come to group every day for the reasons that are obvious. Your referral sources might refer you patients because they have identified you as particularly good at treating a specific type of patient or diagnosis. Knowing why your customers access your services is vital in formulating a plan to reach more customers. Meeting with referral sources and helping them identify “jobs” to be done and providing adequate solutions to those jobs could change the referral pattern of previously resistant referral sources. Meeting with previous or current patients and identifying why they actually access your services could help you create new solutions to appeal to new patients.

I challenge you to take inventory with your patients and referral sources to find out the “jobs” needed to be done for them. Evaluate your programs strengths and weaknesses and identify opportunities to provide adequate solutions to their jobs to be done. Our job as leaders for behavioral health in our communities requires us to constantly innovate. However, we cannot innovate appropriately without truly knowing our customers.

Jacob Shaheen

Director of Business Development

UltraGroup Healthcare

Christensen, C. M., Hall, T., Dillon, K., & Duncan, D. S. (September 2016). Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”. Harvard Business Review. 54 – 62.



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