A 10 Minute Guide to uncovering customer intent when creating digital financial products

Applying the Jobs To Be Done framework to Financial Services


2017 will mark fifty years since the world’s first Automated Teller Machine was installed in a branch of Barclays in North London.

At the time it was heralded as a great leap forwards, inaugurated by a comedian and lauded by the public as a significant innovation. It enabled many customer ‘jobs’, by reducing the latency around acquiring physical cash day or night.

Nowadays of course we take the idea and utility of an ATM for granted. There seems to be one on every corner of every country in the world, ready to dispense cash at a moment’s notice. And, with the increased portability
 of money, customers’ needs are now equally well served through telephone and online banking services. The tools for accessing money have broadened, but the ‘jobs’ that drive our need to access it persist. From grabbing lunch
 to finding a place to live, people will hire the product that best solves that problem.

So, why is understanding the real reasons behind why a customer chooses a product or service so important? To date, most financial services businesses have categorised customers by attribute; using age, wealth, life stage or status as a way of identifying what products and services to develop. This has led to a saturated market of fairly undifferentiated products, with many businesses systematically focusing more on what they want to sell, rather than what a customer actually wants to buy. Jobs To Be Done offers an alternative lens that focuses not only who customers are, but on what they are trying to achieve. By uncovering the job that a customer really hires a product for, a business will begin to understand the true intent behind a purchasing decision and can optimise or invent better products and services as a consequence.

In a sector where differentiation is often hard won, Jobs To Be Done offers a provocative line of thinking for anyone creating or improving digital products. It adds a lens that goes beyond simply creating a better UX, and fundamentally boosts understanding of customer intent.

01 Innovate with Jobs To Be Done

Back in 2007, an article published in MIT Sloan Management Review explained how customers have ‘Jobs To Be Done’ and seek to hire the best products or services to do those jobs.

By understanding the higher purpose for which customers buy products, services and solutions, we can gain new market insight and create viable growth strategies.

To uncover Jobs To Be Done you need to understand your customers; this is usually done through ethnographic research, observations and interviews. By exploring the customer’s journey, you should aim to understand the forces at play behind their decisions.

Trying to switch someone from an existing behaviour to a new one, you encounter two forces: progress-making and progress-hindering.

Digging deep into customer problems and how to interpret them will also highlight their ultimate goals. Moving beyond the standard JTBD framework, this insight can be condensed into what is known as a job story, for example:

Job stories allow us to think in contextual terms, while identifying a clear solution.

This format forces us to think about context and motivations, so that by clarifying the original problem we are able to focus and provide a clear and sustainable solution.

This methodology can be applied retrospectively to the preface of this article and the introduction of ATMs. It’s a past example of improving a service by introducing a new product, and one that everyone can relate to as a customer. It seems simple now, but in a world where cash was only withdrawable over the counter, it was disruptive:

The ATM emerged as the best product to hire for small everyday transactions (the jobs) which quickly require cash.

Grabbing a sandwich or hopping in a cab became infinitely more convenient when the ability to withdraw that cash migrated from the physical branch to the street corner. Conversely other jobs which we need our money for are better served by hiring other products. When buying a home, a customer might hire a mortgage broker for a face-to-face meeting. When buying a car, a customer might hire a comparison engine to find the best loan. Understanding the higher level ‘Job To Be Done’ enables better products and services to emerge as a consequence.


02 Jobs mapping for travel money

Travelex are a great example of how the Jobs To Be Done methodology is being applied in the financial sector today. We spoke with Dave Wascha, Director of Digital Products, to tell us about how they are transforming their business and developing new products for customers.

Dave heads up a new team at travel money business Travelex. Their brief is to develop and test new products, services and revenue streams, to supplement the inevitable decline of paper based business. Dave is a strong proponent of the JTBD methodology and applied the method to conceive and validate Travelex’s new ‘Supercard’ product. To begin the process, the team first investigated the job of ‘spending money abroad’, and a customer journey was mapped as follows:

By applying Jobs To Be Done principles throughout hundreds of comprehensive interviews they uncovered how they could make their customers lives easier across that entire journey — not just at the point of sale where Travelex’s core service currently sits (with travel ATMs fulfilling the ‘Get’ stage of the map). As a result, they developed the Travelex App which included a feature that helps users calculate how much money they need to take on holiday.

Travelex money app

By on-boarding users via a quick interview on what type of traveller they are, how long their stay is and how many people are travelling, the app suggests how much money you will need to exchange (results were based on a survey). The experience behind the app is built around understanding the higher ‘jobs’ when people request travel money and as a result, has driven an uplift in users who exchange money as a consequence of using the app.

In another exercise, seven jobs were highlighted as the core fundamentals of ‘transferring credit’.

The diagram below compares and contrasts different payment solutions, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses in relation to those jobs. The question was then posed to the product team — could Travelex create a product with all the strengths of cash and card combined?

Mapping the utility of payment solutions

The Supercard was born — a card that doesn’t charge roaming fees when using it abroad.

The Supercard promises that customers can say ‘goodbye’ to bank roaming charges

The pilot was so successful and demand was so big that Travelex’s servers crashed when the product was launched in beta earlier this year. The product has since been greenlit for full roll out and looks set to move Travelex’s business a step further into their digital future.

By driving product innovation through applying the JTBD methodology, Travelex have demonstrated how a traditional brand in the financial sector can successfully marry new technology with existing customer problems to develop new business models.

03 Understanding customer intent as a driver for innovation

Beyond established businesses like Travelex who are creating new products, JTBD also offers us a window into why new entrants may be coming to market.

Applying JTBD to banking for example, it is often glaringly obvious how new market entrants have been able to successfully develop propositions that match exactly their customer problems or ‘jobs’ that they are trying to solve.

One example of a new provider looking to better serve high level jobs within banking would be Mondo, the bank built for your smartphone.

Their aspiration is to use data to create a service which, in the future, will enable a truly intelligent banking service. As an account provider Mondo will have the ability to analyse every transaction a user takes, and through that knowledge be able to surface relevant products and partnerships to them.

Mondo’s app interface

This approach to banking will shift the business model from being a pure play Financial Products provider, to an overall financial advertiser serving many customer jobs. For example, imagine for a minute that a customer spends £40/month with Sky for broadband, £5.99/month with Netflix and £30/month with O2 for mobile. This data could be leveraged to offer an easy switch to a Virgin Media package offering a triple play bundle for £50/month. With those £26 savings, a bank could then offer the customer an e-ISA product to grow that money.

Currently the ecosystem for connecting all of these accounts and products together is fragmented and archaic. However, this idea of a ‘bank of the future’ is very close to reality and will be truly transformative if it can be executed in a secure and trustworthy fashion. Any number of customer problems or high level jobs could potentially be met in new ways by blending this level of data insight, technology and customer awareness. Already aggregators like Money Dashboard offer a new utility to users by becoming the proxy for financial transactions. However, if bank startups such as Mondo are able to offer the same functionality without the need for a third party, the true power of meeting myriad customer jobs may be realised.

04 Data as an indicator of customer jobs

A Capgemini report from January 2016 surveyed over 200 senior bankers to establish, amongst other things, their perception of the competitive threat within specific banking verticals.

Aside from the expected pre-occupation of evolving incumbents, the largest threat came from technology players such as Amazon, Apple and Google, ranking significantly higher than the perceived threat of other new market entrants. So, why is this?

In much the same way that tracking account data will offer new banking entrants tremendous power to serve customer jobs in new ways, existing technology players already have the potential to leverage some of the richest datasets on the planet to understand the high level jobs that customers are looking to fulfil. Consider for a moment the volume of SERP data that Google have as an indicator for the common goals people are looking to fulfil when searching for financial products. The ability to interrogate this huge dataset and relate natural language search queries to financial product decisions is a huge indicator of what customers are really trying to achieve when shopping for Financial Services products online. In much the same way that a JTBD interview can reveal insight on a one-to-one basis with a customer, so too could the lens of JTBD provide context on large data sets to extrapolate common intent.

Who knows which technology providers will emerge as major players in the financial market over the coming years, but one thing is for sure; the propositions and products which gain most traction will be driven by the synthesis of understanding true customer goals and meeting these jobs in elegant, frictionless ways.

What can you do next?

There are three key steps that we would recommend taking if any of the provocations in this guide have peaked your interest:

  1. Understand Why Customers Are Hiring Existing Products
  2. Make Use Of Existing Data To Establish Intent
  3. Fulfil Customer Jobs Through Meaningful Partnerships

Understand why customers are hiring existing products

At 383, we utilise the Jobs To Be Done framework to conduct customer interviews and establish customer intent. Recently we have used this technique to help steer the product direction for a major UK utilities provider when creating a mobile application to serve elderly users. We have also applied the methodology to help a global travel provider understand the real reasons why travellers hire their hotels.

Make use of existing data to establish intent

Beyond conducting new customer interviews, businesses are often sitting on a host of relevant data that they can use to make assumptions around their customers’ jobs. Existing customer complaints, anecdotes from front line staff, inbound SERP results and customer feedback forms can all infer the higher level goals that customers are looking to achieve through hiring existing products.

Fulfil customer jobs through meaningful partnerships

In 2015, 383 wrote the Useful Brands Playbook, a free guide for brands looking to drive high levels of utility for their customers. Two of the ten plays are particularly relevant to the content in this guide. Firstly, Play Four (‘Drive Utility Through APIs’) provides guidance to brands looking to make their utility extendable and consumable by other providers. With the recent recommendations for an Open Banking Standard, financial services providers may find this play particularly relevant.

Secondly, Play Nine (‘Build Useful Partnerships’) pushes brands to consider the benefits of tapping into the utility provided by other brands, products or services your customers may be hiring. In doing so, providers can begin to serve a wider range of customer jobs not only through building, but through partnering with existing services the customers already desire.

383 is a digital product and customer experience studio based in the UK.

Find out more about us and some of our recent thoughts at 383project.com

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