Understanding and managing expectations, based on who your customer is

“Jobs to be Done” is a framework often used for making effective product decisions. The intention is to understand what your customer is “hiring” your product to do. For example, we hire our email client (Outlook, Gmail, etc) to provide clear and easy access to our email. If that ever stops happening, we’d hire a different app to do the same job. I like to equate the “job to be done” with the “expectation of an outcome”. In many cases, performing service successfully hinges itself on a specific expectation and outcome.

Getting this right, to me, is the key to successful customer relations, and gives a nice amount of free public relations benefits in the process (tl;dr: customers love your company).

Cape Town has recently been his with the “fibre internet revolution”. Starting in the business centres around the city, and moving now into the suburbs, there is currently a race to the finish for fibre infrastructure providers to get into as many areas as possible. Being in the area, coupled with offering a range of internet service providers on their radar, equates to more customers for them. With high switching costs at the infrastructure level, and no incentive for the client themselves to switch from one provider to another at the infrastructure level, getting in on the ground floor is key to retention of those customers, in this case.

I had a recent interaction with a fibre infrastructure provider over social media, who are currently trenching for their infrastructure in our area. This has resulted in large sections of property verges being dug up, grass being lifted out everywhere, and a generally unsightly looking situation for everyone. With Winter on it’s way, this certainly isn’t ideal.

Breaking this down for a moment, there is already a competing provider in the area. There is no incentive to the customer to have this additional provider in the area. To the customer, all this looks like is having their beautiful front gardens dug up for a second time, with no material benefit to them. It is clear that the provider doesn’t understand this, based on their interactions on social media.

When asked if they would replace the frontages exactly as they were previously, the provider says “yes”. There are then immediately several comments in response, stating that this hasn’t at all happened, in fact quite the opposite (dead grass, sandy trenches, and broken pipes, in some cases). Other areas near by have experienced the exact same result.

In this case, circling back to the job and expectation, there is actually no direct job here from the customer to the provider. The provider campaigns to be in the area, and in turn benefits only themselves, as the service providers have no incentive to need two infrastructure providers on the area. The client suffers, as their beautiful garden is torn up for a second time.

For the client, the job here is entirely different. The infrastructure provider doesn’t seem to recognise this, though. The job is actually “place my front garden back to the state it was in before you started”.

The day the infrastructure provider understands and embraces this, is the same day they’ll receive fewer social media complaints, and have far more happy customers on their books.

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