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Discover Your Customers' Jobs to Be Done

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe interviewing best practices.
  • Identify interviewing tips.


Now that you know all about jobs, you’re probably thinking: How do I get started? Not to worry! In this section, you learn how to go out and talk to your customers to discover their jobs and needs.

Interviewing Customers to Discover Their Jobs to Be Done

No matter what the job is, you’ll eventually need to go out and talk to your customers so they can speak in their own words about their specific goals and needs. It’s important to keep in mind that anyone on the team can do this and that the role isn’t specific to just designers, researchers, or product managers. 

Conducting interviews to uncover a customer’s Jobs to Be Done is different from other types of user interviews or generative research. Jobs to Be Done interviews aim to understand the reasons a customer hires (or doesn’t hire) certain solutions to get a job done. In-depth interviews help you gain a deeper understanding of their functional goals and what they’re currently doing. 

Understanding a customer’s social and emotional goals also helps you get to the core of their actions—and “buying decisions,” in Jobs to Be Done parlance. Let’s look at some interviewing best practices.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Image showing a woman asking an open-ended question, as depicted by ellipses and a question mark in a speech bubble.

One of the best interview techniques to encourage the customer to talk about their experiences is to ask open-ended questions. When using this best practice for data collection, customer responses may result in different interview flows, which means all questions may not be in the exact same order for each person you talk to. This may give the overall interview less structure and feel unstable, but that’s okay. Open-ended questions give the customer more opportunities to reflect on their experiences and may provide insightful feedback. 

What becomes critical for this best practice is to ensure that the interview goals and key questions are the same for each customer conversation. That way, you can identify similar patterns, such as unmet needs or issues, across groups of people that you speak with. It’s also important to make sure you’re talking to the right people.

Ask How and Why

Image of a person asking How? and Why? via speech bubbles.

The purpose of an in-depth interview is to dig deep so that you can understand both the functional goals and emotional needs of what the user is doing. It is not about following a strict line of yes/no or rating questions. Avoid binary questions that lead to one word or short answers.

Ask how and why questions to gain deeper insights into customer behaviors. By asking how a customer accomplishes their work, you gain valuable knowledge about what they’re doing. And equally as important, you gain a deep understanding of their overall work context and the choices they make. Once you understand how customers are accomplishing their work, it is then critical to understand why they are behaving in this way. By focusing deeply on why customers take specific actions and choices, you get them to reflect on their unmet needs, issues, and frustrations.

For example, an electric kettle company hypothesized that the main job their users were solving for was, “I want to boil water.” The company’s representatives went out to talk to existing and potential customers to validate this hypothesis and learn more about their Jobs to Be Done. During the interview, the team asked: 

  • “Can you recall the last time you boiled water? How did you do so?”
  • “Can you recall the last time you boiled water? Why did you do so?”

After compiling their notes, the interviewers noticed that almost all of their customers boiled water in order to prepare a hot beverage. They realized that by exploring a higher job altitude, they were increasing their scope of innovation. 

The interviewers also noticed something interesting in each answer. When customers described what steps were involved, they also touched on steps that didn’t involve their solution at all. Some would say they’d take out the coffee maker, boil the water, add the coffee grounds to the coffee maker, pour the water into a cup, add milk, and then drink. The representatives quickly learned that boiling water was simply one step in a larger Jobs to Be Done that most of their customers shared when it came to preparing a hot beverage. Cue the espresso machine!

Avoid Demoing a Feature or Asking for Feedback on an Idea

Image of a woman saying, "Avoid demoing a feature," as depicted by a computer screen inside of a "do not" symbol.

Remember to keep the interview solution agnostic. The goal of the interview isn’t to get feedback on a concept, a solution, or a specific product. Understanding the current work context and behaviors associated with them is critical to thoroughly understanding what issues, gaps, and unmet needs exist in their overall experience. Demoing a solution or referencing a product idea could limit the customer and prevent them from thinking holistically about their experiences, needs, and motivations.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind

The best practices mentioned above are the big three, but you should also keep in mind that it’s important to:

  • Talk to the right people. Identify a main job and talk to the main job performer. For example, if you're researching jobs done by someone who uses your product, remember that the user and the buyer may be different. A great example is… you guessed it, cat food! It has to be stinky enough for a cat to eat it, and not-stinky enough for a human to buy it. Whose job are you identifying?
  • Aim to talk to at least five people to start seeing patterns in your findings.
  • Take detailed notes. Try to capture customer quotes and details in the words of the customer rather than only what stands out to you. This will help you to translate your notes into job statements and outcomes after the interview.
  • Look for workarounds. What are people doing to modify the solution they're currently hiring to solve the problem you're working on?
  • Identify what’s surprising to you about the choices people are making or the rationale they’re employing. You can often identify a hard-to-articulate need by digging into these surprises.

If you rarely talk to customers or would like a refresher on general user research best practices, take the UX Research Basics Trailhead module to learn more or check out the resources section below for a guide to JTBD interviewing.

Jobs Remain Stable, but Needs and Circumstances Evolve

It’s important to keep in mind that talking to your customers isn’t a one-and-done thing. While jobs remain stable over time, the needs of job performers evolve as circumstances change. In the next unit, you learn how to translate what you hear from your customers into effective job and outcome statements and validate those statements with your customers. 


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