Chris Spiek & Bob Moesta talk at Business of Software 2013 on, 'Jobs to be done' and why customers switch products

Remember that amazing Professor Clayton Christensen talk at Business of Software 2011 about life, marketing and the jobs that people hire products to do? You could almost hear the pennies dropping as he talked about the importance of understanding the job that your product does.

Before we tell you a little bit more about Chris Spiek and Bob Moesta’s talk at this year’s Business of Software Conference, let’s remind ourselves about what, ‘The Job your product does‘, means…

Clayton explained the concept by talking about a project for McDonald’s who were a bit bemused that sales of their super thick milk shakes, which they had assumed would be a big seller at the weekend (think children being given a treat by their parents) but were surprised to find that they were also selling a lot on weekday mornings…

This is the transcript of the relevant part of Clayton’s talk at Business of Software 2011.

“I will describe it with a silly story about Milkshakes. So this is one of the big national fast food restaurants and they were trying to goose up the sales of their milkshakes. I walked into one of their restaurants and there were the sandwiches and over here were the desserts and the milkshakes were the line item in the desert menu. And these guys were very sophisticated and they had a profile of the quintessential customer that likes each of those individual products. So they had a profile of the quintessential milkshake consumer and I read the milkshake characteristics and I thought “Holy cow this is Clayton Christensen right there” and so they invite people like me into conference room and so they say could you please tell us how we could improve the milkshake so you buy more of them?

“They get very clear feedback they would then improve the products in the ways that their customer said and had no impact on sales or profit whatsoever. So as we were thinking about this we realized that the unit of analysis is the job not the customer and so we stood in a restaurant one day for 18 hours and very careful data whenever somebody bought a milkshake; what were they buying, what time did they buy, what were they wearing, were they alone, did they buy other food with it, did they eat it at the restaurant or go off with it?

“And it turned out as we added it up at the end of the day that nearly half of the milkshakes were sold before 8 AM . People were always alone, it’s the only thing they bought and always got in the car and drove off with it. So to figure out what job they were doing, we came back the next day stood outside the restaurant so that we can confront these people as they are coming off with their milkshake and we say “look I see what you are just doing here but I gotta understand what job you were trying to do that caused you to come here and hire that milkshake?” and they struggle, and so to try to help to them we say, “think about the last time you were in the same situation needing to get the same job done but you didn’t come here to hire the milkshake what did you hire?”

“It turned out they all had the same job to do in the morning and that is they had a long and boring drive to work and they just needed to do something while they drove to keep themselves occupied. One hand had to be on the wheel but jeez somebody gave them another hand there wasn’t anything in it and I just needed to do something to do while I was driving. ‘I wasn’t hungry yet but I knew I was gonna be hungry by 10’o clock so I just needed something that would sink down and stay there for the morning’ [Laughter]. Boy I never thought about it this way before but you know last Friday I hired a banana, take my word for it never hire bananas they are gone in 3 minutes, you are hungry by 7:30, if you promise you won’t tell my wife I hire donuts twice a week. They are better but they are not very good they crumble all over my clothes, they are gone too fast and gets to my fingers gooey. Yeah I hire bagels on occasion but jeez so dry and tasteless, I have to steer with my knees while I put the cream cheese on it and if the phone rings we have got into trouble. If you look under the seat you will see a snickers bar wrapper that’s because I had snickers bar once but I felt so guilty I just have never done that again.

“But let me tell you when I come here and hire this milkshake, it is so viscous, I can’t even pour it out and it takes me 25 minutes to suck it up that thin little straw. Who cares what the ingredients are? I don’t, I just know that I am full for the morning and it fits right in my cup holder and it turns out that the milkshake does the job better than any other competitors and the competitors are not Burger King Milkshakes. But its bananas, donuts, bagels, snickers bar, coffee and so on and then it turned out in the later afternoon and evening it was hired for a fundamentally different job primarily by fathers who have been saying “no” to their kids all week long and there have just been something they can say yes to so that their kids will think of them as kind parents. And so I’m standing at the counter and I order my meal and then my son, Spence orders his meal and then he looks up at me and he says, “Dad could you buy me a milkshake?” and I put my hand on his arm and I say, “Spence I would love to give you a Milkshake” and I say that it has nothing to do with Spence but I just want to feel good about myself you know and so watch what happens there its consumed in the restaurant with other food and with other people and I finish my meal and Spence finishes his meal and then the kid picks up that crummy milkshake and lemme tell you it is so viscous, it takes the kid forever to suck it up that thin little straw. You know, and I wait patiently for a while and then I wait impatiently for a while [Laughter] and they I say, “look Spence we can’t stay here all night” so we throw it away half consumed.

“Then they invite me as a customer who buys milkshakes and say, “so Clay how can we improve our milkshakes so that you buy more of them?” What am I gonna say because I hire for 2 fundamentally different products and then when they combine my response with all of the other 45-65 year old male slobs with children and they give one size fixed in product that doesn’t do any of the job so that it’s been hired to do.

“I hope you can see how if you understand the job then you understand how to improve it so that it does the job even better and it turns out that they were improving the milkshake on a trajectory performance that was irrelevant to the jobs for which it was hired. So for the morning, how would you improve it? Well you wanna make it even more viscous right to take longer to suck it up, you stir in tiny chunks of fruit but not to make it healthy because they don’t hire it to become healthy but to just bring variety and unpredictability to a boring commute. On occasion it would go [pop] and it would wake me up and then you would move the dispenser machine from behind the counter to the front of the counter and give people a swipe card so they could just rush in gas up and go and never get caught in the line and the other afternoon job would be a totally different concept you know. But I hope that you can see that how understanding the job to be done is really critical.”

The same principles apply to building great software products. The guys behind the concept, Chris Spiek and Bob Moesta deliver some brilliant workshops that help you to understand what job your product does with organisations like 37 Signals – here is Jason Fried talking about the concept of ‘Jobs to be done‘.

“Customers don’t just buy a product — they switch from something else. And customers don’t just leave a product — they switch to something else. “It’s in these switching moments that the deepest customer insights can be found. “Most businesses don’t know the real reasons why people switch to — or from — their products. We’ll teach you how to find out.” Jason Fried

We’re delighted that Chris Spiek and Bob Moesta will be talking at Business of Software Conference (28-30th October 2013) about the concept of Jobs to be done, why customers ‘switch’ from one product to another and how to apply the ideas in your own organisation.


Have you ever wondered about the REAL reason your customers are buying what you sell? The Jobs-to-be-Done framework has been used for over 20 years to understand what motivates consumers to buy, or to switch from one product to another, and often times it has very little to do with what product developers believe to be the most important features or attributes of the product.

During this session Chris Spiek and Bob Moesta will lay out why it’s essential to understand the Jobs that your products and services are being hired to do, and how understand the Job-to-be-Done can lead you to leaner, faster, more simple product development and highly effective advertising and messaging.

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