Customers Don’t Know What They Really Want. Us Neither.

A personal story translated into 6 key takeaways for startups and product development

During the past vacation period, my partner and I reflected on what happened to us during the hotel checkout, and how hard it is to unveil the real Jobs-To-Be-Done the people are trying to do.

It was Jan 26th at Maui Kaanapali Villas, Hawaii. That day we had to take the flight back to Seattle at 11:20 PM, so we had plenty of time to relax and enjoy our last day at Maui. Under that circumstance, we were discussing the convenience of doing a late check-out at the hotel at 1 PM instead of the standard check-out at 11 AM. After the check-out, we were going to do the Hana route, so we could not leave the hotel later than 1 PM.

After discussing if it made sense to pay whatever the amount was to have a room for 2 hours more, we conveyed that we wanted to know the price before. Up to this point, we still did not have clear our Job-To-Be-Done. We were discussing to “have a room more time”. To balance the price versus value was our KPI for decision making, and our outcomes were reasonable price vs. value, feel clean (shower), and suffer no robberies (luggage safe).

Takeaway 1: Every customer mentally defines his own JTBD outcomes to measure the success.

The next step was to ask the receptionist for the late check-out price. He told us that there was no availability of late check-out because new guests were coming to our room. However, he said to us: “We can keep your suitcases in the locker for you. Besides, we have two private showers available for customers willing to enjoy the pool and beach after checking-out. Does it work for you?”

Unveiling the real Job-To-Be-Done

“That works perfectly” — Was our answer to the receptionist. Wich means that our real Job-To-Be-Done was not “to have the room for 2 hours more”. Instead, it was “help me to keep my luggage safe and have a shower after using the pool and do snorkel after the check-out so that we can start the trip feeling clean”.

Takeaway 2: What the customer wants/tell is not always the underlying Job-To-Be-Done (real need).

My partner and I tended to do late check-out when we have late flights to return home, so our mind was pointing us to do a late check-out, instead of asking for the real functional Job-To-Be-Done we needed to solve.

Takeaway 3: Human beahviour drives us to express wants the same as they get used to. Instead we have to ask questions to unveil the real Job (needs).

It is curious that even working with the JBTD framework, we did not realize our real Job-To-Be-Done. If that happens to us, imagine to our customers. They need our help.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” — Theodore Levitt, Hardvard Business School

Or in our case

“People don’t want a room for 2 hours more. They want to keep the luggage safe and a private shower to feel clean.”

Businesses should discover the real Jobs-To-Be-Done of customers and help them solve it

The hotel employees realized about this Job, built private showers for that purpose and were offering these showers proactively (on top of the luggage room )when customers were asking about “late check-out”.

Takeaway 4: Employees and researchers should be trained to give solutions for real problems, not for wants/tolds.

Translated to our business, when doing customer research to develop our product or service, we have to make the right questions to understand the underlying Job-To-Be-Done of our customers to develop a solution fitting in what they need, which not always is what they want or tell.

What we wanted/told: “a room for 2 hours more”

What we needed: “keep my luggage safe and have a shower to feel clean”

Takeaway 5: It is really difficult to unveil underlying real needs without asking the correct questions.

Vector created by rawpixel.com — www.freepik.com

Customer satisfaction boosts while solving real Jobs

The results were more than satisfying: we were exactly offered what we needed, and we did not pay any extra penny for it. Instead, if we’d have rented the room for 2 hours more, there would have been an additional cost. The satisfaction sensation was much better than if we had to rent the room for more time.

Takeaway 6: Solve real problems accomplishing the desired customer outcomes to considerably increase customer satisfaction.

Discover real Jobs-To-Be-Done is a hard task. It is vital to empathize with our customers as human beings and truly understand what they are trying to do instead of what they are saying they want. If we can unveil the real Job and design a product or service to solve it, we will probably achieve the problem-solution fit stage. Make the right questions to the right people.


My purpose is to help people with my thoughts while learning with your feedback. If this post has been useful for you, please share the story with people that could benefit from it.