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8 Dec

Watch and learn.

When was the last time you went to a shopping mall?

Do you always go with a specific purpose to the mall? I often go without any goal in mind. This aimlessness is also common when I scroll through an online shopping app or a food delivery platform. I’m just looking.

Now, imagine you were a mall experience designer or an app user journey designer, you would do one or more of the following:

  1. Change the layout of mall kiosks or the banners on your shopping app
  2. Chart the route for how to move around in the mall and keep it restricted
  3. Create a nudge if the screen is not touched for ‘X’ minutes
  4. Design exciting offers
  5. Keep a security check to check when I leave the mall or create a login page in case I wish to make an impromptu purchase.

I could go on and on with the list of things you could do to get me to take an action.

But technically, you cannot incorporate all the different reasons for which I visit the mall or scroll an app.

For that, you have to know me a bit intimately.

How so?

Well, first, you’ve to be able to get inside my head and second, hope that I know why I’m doing anything at all.

"That sounds ridiculous, Raj. How can I arrive at reasons for why you do anything?"

Don’t be vexed. There is a way to understand my motivations, as a user, a bit more clearly.

And the way you do that is by using Job Stories.

Oh! What are those?Job Stories are what I would arrive at if I understood that a consumer hires a product or service to alleviate a specific pain point.

A job story is a derivation of the Jobs-to-be-done framework, which helps product builders see beyond simple consumer demographic information and see the actual reasons behind why customers buy what they buy: what's the job/s they're hiring the product to solve.

It allows you to triangulate the fundamental questions:

  • Why does someone hire my product? What job/s are they trying to get done?
  • What are the social, emotional, and functional dimensions of the job?
  • What obstacles need to be removed for users to accomplish their primary functional, emotional, and social job to be done? And finally,
  • What are the features that my product needs to prioritize so that it helps my users do these jobs well?

Now that you have a solid primer on what job stories, let’s look at the what, when, how, and why of using them.

The What

As an online or offline experience designer, you want to know your customer as deeply as possible because it helps you tailor the experience accordingly. But sounds a bit ambiguous to practice, right? Take a look:

As a product manager or designer, thinking of the customer using this frame will take you closer to solving their pain point.

The When

To be honest, you can only use this framework after you’ve crossed the zero-to-one journey.

For you to design a better experience you need to have a decent number of users, to begin with.They also have to frequently use your product or service. Only then can you go ahead to create job stories.

A first-time user’s reasons will just confuse you further and take you down paths that are inappropriate to the majority of users.

The How

The most crucial aspect of all, other than knowing how the sentence is framed, you will have to prioritise features based on the pattern or response that emerges from the job stories. When I said that you cannot use this framework until you have a set of users, it is also significant that you directly speak to the set of regular customers.

You cannot approximate or make calculated guesses about consumer motivations. At least not entirely. You have to listen.

Let’s look at an example where a business applied the learnings of the job story at breakneck speed.

In a Twitter poll, Shreyas Doshi asked his followers to pick which part of the Samosa do they enjoy the most:

In addition to the poll’s response, regular samosa consumers responded with which part of the samosa they liked best, and if it had changed over some time period. The screenshots below are just a snapshot of how consumers express themselves.

I am sure you’re wondering why I’ve used this example.

Here’s the thing.

As unconventional as this example may be, I want you to pay attention to what the customers are saying, and how. They are providing opinions. They’re expressing what a samosa accomplishes for them. If I had to use the raw data from this tweet to arrive at a Job Story, I would come up with the following:

"When I’m bored, I want a quick snack so I can get back to work with joy."
"When I think of a samosa I want only the crust so I can eat them like chips."

To my surprise, this little Twitter poll convinced the founder of Samosa Party, an Indian business to launch Samosa Corners on the menu.

If you spend time getting the how of a job story right, you’re bound to get detailed insights into a consumer’s thought process.

But why should you be taking all this effort after all?

The only reason why it is worth spending time on building job stories is that only the customer is an expert on the problem they face.

As product creators or managers we may like to believe we know why our product is most used.

The founder of Samosa Party is well aware of his product and how loved the product already is by customers. Technically, he has moved beyond having empathy for his customers and is now at a stage where he can do more. He can, as they say, iterate fast and deliver.

The reason for being this nimble stems from trusting how customers look at your product. Understanding the user’s motivation to use your product will unlock insights that cannot come from any form of forecasting. It can only come from a deep observation of their behaviors as moulded by their culture, upbringing, and experiences.

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