Customer Job Solutions (Video)
Your Competition May Not Be What You Think
The late economist Theodore Levitt once said that people don’t buy quarter-inch drills; they buy quarter-inch holes. The drill just happens to the be best means available to get the job done. This underscores that, from the customer’s perspective, all products and services are point-in-time solutions for executing jobs. That people and organizations really aren’t buying products and services, per se. Rather, they’re buying job solutions.
A job solution is anything that a person or organization can hire to help them perform the job action to generate success outcomes — or as we often say, help them “execute a job”. A job solution can be a product, a service, a resource or any combination of these that enables job execution. For instance, Fedex and UPS are job solutions that can be hired to send a parcel to a destination within a specified time. A CPA is a job solution that can be hired to prepare a tax return. A public park is a job solution that can be hired to take a run.
There are different ways of characterizing job solutions. Generally, when you think of solutions, you naturally think of products and services offered by people and organizations. We call these “provider solutions” or simply “offerings” for short. For example, automobiles, personal computers, tools, clothes, professional services, and restaurants, are all provider solutions. Provider solutions may be hired to execute part of a job or an entire job.
Provider solutions that can be used to get many different jobs done are called platform-level solutions and they are akin to Swiss army knife. A bank is good example of a platform-level solution because they provide the means to get a variety of financial jobs done. Social media services like Facebook and LinkedIn are other good examples of platform-level solutions.
Another way of characterizing a job solution is in the context of self-service. In this case people and organizations act as their own service provider by combining or integrating various kinds of resources to get a job done. We call this combination of resources a self-service job solution. Anything, tangible or intangible, that enables self-service is a resource. In this context, provider solutions that are used to partially execute a job are a resource for self-service. There’re also natural resources, public good resources, knowledge resources, data and information resources, legal right resources, and financial resources, to name a few.
A good example of self-service is “do it yourself” jobs. Say a home appliance stops working. You watch a YouTube video that shows you to fix the appliance yourself (thereby providing you with the resource of expert knowledge). You purchase some tools and a part (which are both provider solutions) and then perform the repair. This self-service solution substitutes for an appliance repair service.
Driving yourself around in your car is self-service. You drive your car (which is a provider solution) on roads (which is a public good resource) using fuel (which is a provider solution) and with a driver’s license (which is a legal right) and the ability to drive (which is knowledge) to get from one place to another. This is a self-service solution substitute for a taxi, subway, bus or ride-share offering.
A vast majority of job solutions are in the self-service category. Dissatisfactions around many of these solutions provide lots of lucrative targets for innovators because they involve too much time, effort and cost for the success outcomes they generate. Because of this, customers are struggling to get these jobs done. This creates opportunities to improve and extend current products and services and to create new offerings that can get these jobs done much better.
Customer jobs are stable over time, but the solutions we use to get those jobs done change as design, technology and business models evolve. As such, customers will always seek out the best available means of getting important jobs done. As innovators, we are constantly looking for better ways to help customers execute jobs.
Take for example the job — listen to music on demand. At some point, the best job solution was the vinyl record. As technology advanced, the best job solution moved to the cassette tape followed by the CD-ROM. Today, most people listen to music using Internet services like Spotify, Pandora and iTunes. But after all this time, the job remains the same — listen to music on demand.
This is a stark reminder that customers are loyal to the job, not point-in-time job solutions. As such, they are quick to fire solutions and hire others that can get a job done better with less effort, in less time, and at a lower cost. As an innovator, this is something that you can count on working in your favor!