Support team management

Excellent Customer Service with Jobs-To-Be-Done Framework

Great customer service brings happy customers and leads to booming revenues. It's a simple equation that many companies have cracked by now.

Furthermore, businesses are starting to understand the part that customer support quality plays in their earnings. You cannot force your users to be happy, nor can you make your revenue grow by just wishing really, really hard (unless, of course, you’re good at telekinesis).

Your business results depend on how satisfied your customers are with your company - and that relies largely on your support. Not convinced? Take a look at the following stats:

62% of B2B customers purchase more thanks to excellent customer service, while 66% stop buying after a lousy support interaction.

So, it’s clear that both good and bad experiences impact your revenue. If you want your business to thrive, make the quality of your customer service your company’s top priority.

“Alright, but how do I start providing excellent customer service?” you may ask.

With years of building international support teams, we’ve asked ourselves the same question over and over again. We’ve also Googled to find dozens of tricks and tips to get there.

At some point, we realized that there has to be more behind driving revenue with customer service than simply being friendly and saying “thank you”... two of the most common suggestions you’ll find on Google.

If you’re taking the quality of your support seriously, you need to build a proper strategy for it - and we’re here to help you out.

Let us introduce the Jobs-to-be-Done framework to the world of customer service. It’s a simple yet powerful approach that is already bringing value and innovation to businesses around the world and across all industries.

  1. What's the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework?
  2. Why are customers hiring your products?
  3. Whose job-to-be-done is (excellent) customer service?
  4. How to start providing excellent customer service

What's the Jobs-to-be-Done framework?

Before diving into how Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) applies to customer service, let’s take a broader look at the framework for context.

In the 90s Anthony W. Ulwick introduced the idea of people having underlying needs that they are constantly addressing in their lives. The concept that was coined as the Jobs-to-be-Done business theory by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in 2003, and further popularized by Ulwick in 2005.

The framework centers around the idea that people ‘hire’ products and services to perform certain tasks for them. Though it sounds quite logical, it actually provides a fresh perspective on how people consume everything from personal items to business products.

According to the theory, as opposed to buying goods, customers are looking for ways to get certain jobs done. This fundamentally different point of view has changed the marketing strategies and offered unexpected opportunities for product development for the companies who have adopted the JTBD concept.

“Jobs-to-be-Done is best defined as a perspective — a lens through which you can observe markets, customers, needs, competitors, and customer segments differently, and by doing so, make innovation far more predictable and profitable.” Tony Ulwick, pioneer of the JTBD theory.

One of the best and most well-known examples of how the concept has been implemented comes from McDonald’s fast-food chain. By looking at the consumption of milkshakes, business analysts were able to spot vast business opportunities that the company hadn’t noticed and understood before.

People didn’t buy McDonald’s milkshakes in the morning because of the better taste or thicker consistency compared to that of other cafes. Customers ‘hired’ milkshakes for the job of keeping them full until lunch. So, milkshakes weren’t competing with other similar beverages, but with all other breakfast options.

Milkshakes did a better job at keeping the stomach full than bagels, chocolate bars, or bananas. They also suited for the task because they were easy to consume in the car during the morning commute.

We can apply the same framework to all businesses, and departments within them, to uncover hidden opportunities for growth. Find the milkshake of your business.

Why are customers hiring your products?

So, let’s (at least for the time being) agree that your customers don’t buy or subscribe to your product, they hire it for a job. What is it that your users want to get done?

To understand why customers hire your product, think about the core necessity they want to satisfy. Don't define it through what the product does, because the features and functionalities of your solution are simply the means of achieving the result.

Remember, your customers are not buying features, they are hiring you to get a job done.

For example, an analysis of the sales software Pipedrive revealed three things that people want to get done when using a CRM. They want to:

  1. Organize their work;
  2. Improve their sales process; and
  3. Scale their sales teams.

These are the main jobs that people want to get done. We can complement these with additional specifications like "organize their work conveniently" or "improve the sales process with little effort".

What about customer service?

However, from the customer support perspective, the most important thing to realize is that contacting support is never the reason the customers hired your product. It’s a job that should not have to be done at all.

That’s an important realization for two reasons:

  1. Measuring the quality of your support with CSAT, NPS, CES, and other customer-based surveys is intrinsically wrong. The user hired your product to perform a job which it failed to do. Regardless of whether they’re stuck because they don’t understand how the solution works, or if the product is broken, the outcome is the same. They are not getting the job done.

    Funnily enough, that’s when most companies jump in to ask how satisfied the customer was with their experience.

    Imagine going to a grocery store to hire orange juice for a hydration job. The store sells you ketchup instead - and then asks you how satisfied you are with it. It’s good ketchup but not exactly what you were there for, so can it still be a 10 out of 10?

    Customer surveys are good for getting to know your customers’ attitudes towards the entire company and products. However, customer satisfaction surveys are not the best way to measure the quality of your support (we’ve written more about the reasons behind this here).

    We’ll come to see whose job-to-be-done it is to rate your support in a while if you continue reading.

  2. Working in customer service is stressful. Even if you’re building a cool customer-centric startup where fun and humor are one of the teams’ core values, your customer service is still the one breaking the fall for your company’s failures.

    Even if your team is doing a fabulous job and you’re seeing support as a revenue-driver, you’re still offering a service that customers did not intend on using. It is natural for (at least some) people to feel frustrated with products failing to get their jobs done.

    Working with irritated people is stressful, period.

So, the key takeaway from this is that your customers don’t hire your product to talk to your customer support, no matter how good it is. If you keep that in mind, a lot of details in your customer service strategy will fall into place.

Whose job-to-be-done is (excellent) customer service?

For cases when the job does not get done as intended, companies use customer service as a safety net. So, customer service is the businesses’ job to be done which they hire support agents to do for them.

Let’s look at the four core things businesses need to do as proposed by Tony Ulwick, the pioneer of the JTBD theory. Try to guess whose job is it to assess the quality of customer service in the light of these purposes.

  1. Understand customers’ needs. We’ve already concluded that the main job people intend to get done with your product is not talking to your support. However, if things go haywire, their needs shift to finding a solution to their problem.

    At this point, the company needs to understand what customers are now looking for in this new situation. For example:

    • If a customer hired your solution to “organize their work conveniently” but cannot integrate your product with their database, they need your customer service to advocate for better integration options in your product and development departments.
    • If users wanted to “improve the sales process with little effort” but fail to understand how to build a workflow in your product, they need help and guidance on how to do so.
  2. Analyze which customer needs are under or over-served. The JTBD theory comes with a strategy matrix that helps businesses assess which customer needs they are addressing - and to which amount.

    As you remember, the majority of people’s buying decisions are affected by the quality of customer service. So, this approach provides great insight into if people are turning to your competitors due to lousy support interactions. Let’s put support into the matrix and see how it plays out.

    • Better customer service and more expensive products appeal to users with unmet needs. These are the customers who are having problems with getting a job done with your product, and who don’t get the help they need from your support. If they are willing to pay more for a better experience, they’re gone.

    • Better customer service and less expensive products appeal to all users. If you succeed in providing and sustaining more enjoyable experiences for a cheaper price, you’ve got the potential to win over the market.

    FYI, 89% of companies claim to compete mostly based on customer experience. So, unless they are able to get customers’ jobs done without involving support teams, most businesses battle in the abovementioned categories.

    • Worse support and less expensive products appeal to overserved users, i.e. those with no unmet needs. If the product that the customers hired gets the job done as intended, users will never contact your customer service. The quality of your support will not play any role in their buying decisions.

    • Worse support and more expensive product appeals to users with limited or no alternatives. If you own the monopoly in your industry, you can afford to provide bad customer experiences for a high price. Watch out for competitors, though: as soon as they arrive with better offerings, they’ll win your customers over in a heartbeat.

  3. Proactively create services that address customer needs. If you know the parts of your products that are most likely to fail in getting their jobs done, you can predict when customers need some help.

    • Present self-help right when your customers need it. You can do it in the form of proactive chat, contextual help or in-app onboarding flows and tooltips.

    • Offer customer service in the channels that your customers are likely to use. If most of your support conversations are held over the phone, make your phone number is easily findable. If your users prefer to contact you via live chat, double-check that your chat window pops up right where help is needed.

    • Contact customers proactively when they use the product areas that are most likely to cause difficulties. You don’t have to wait for them to reach out to you first. That’s one of the basics of driving revenue through support efforts, which you can read more about on the Help Scout blog.

  4. Market products based on the needs you are addressing. If you are among those companies who aim to offer better customer service than your competitors, don’t forget to mention it in your value proposition. Even a support chat bubble on your landing page can go a long way in reassuring to your customers that help is there when they need it.

    Now, who is bold enough to market the message “in case we fail, contact our excellent customer service”?

Going back to where we started: Whose job is it to assess the quality of your support?

Customer service is your company’s job to be done. So, the only one who can say whether your support team did the job right, is you.

How to start providing excellent customer service

We’ve (hopefully) made it clear why customers cannot be the sole judges of the quality of your support. Here’s a recap in case you missed it:

  • Customers hire your product to get a job done (which almost never is talking to your support). They can assess how well the product met their expectations.
  • Companies hire customer service teams to help their users when the product fails. Companies evaluate whether the support job was done as required.

CSAT, NPS, CES, and other customer surveys reflect customers’ satisfaction with how well your product executed the job they hired it to do. Don’t expect them to tell you how your customer service fulfilled the job that you hired them for.

To start providing excellent customer service, you need to first acknowledge the fact that assessing the quality of your customer service is your responsibility. Internal customer service conversation reviews are the means to do it.

  1. Define your customer support vision and create goals that describe the service you are aiming to offer.
  2. Create support quality standards that all customer interactions must meet. Review samples of your customer service conversations and rate them against your quality standards.
  3. Give feedback to agents to help them become better at their job.
  4. Repeat forever to maintain an even level of quality in your customer service.

Conversation reviews (sometimes also called customer service quality assurance) are a systematic means of improving the quality of your support. Without internal assessments, you cannot really know how your support is handling their job.

Some companies neglect conversation reviews because their customer service lacks a proper strategy. Others understand the need for support QA but find it difficult to create a framework for it and to keep the system running as the company grows.

Companies like Automattic, PandaDoc, and Figma use Klaus for their conversation reviews. As Klaus takes care of the tedious part of the job - from pulling support tickets in for review to sending notifications to agents - these teams see it as an integral part of the outstanding customer service that they provide.

The gap between how many customers see support as a deal-breaker (or maker) and the companies that actually have a proper strategy of providing good customer service is enormous. More and more execs understand the role that customer interactions play in their business results but don’t really know how to utilize the opportunities hiding there.

Jobs-to-be-Done provides a helpful framework for gaining control over where your support is heading. Recognizing the fact that customers cannot evaluate the quality of your customer service lies the groundwork for an objective and balanced support strategy.

If you hire a support team to provide excellent customer service to your users, it’s your job to make sure it gets done properly. Internal conversation reviews help you gain that crucial perspective.

If you’re ready to jump on the bandwagon, check out Klaus. It’s the easiest way to get going with conversation reviews and start delivering that excellent customer service.

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