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One Step Towards Customer Education that Focuses on the Job-to-be-Done

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on November 21, 2017

We know that customer education programs need to help our customers use product features. We also know that focusing too much on feature training misses a huge opportunity to help customers achieve desired outcomes because feature training will often miss the context required to understand why someone needs to learn this new software product in the first place. After all, no matter how good your software is, customers can do their job with out it.

"I know your project management software is awesome, but I can use a pencil and a college ruled notebook to track projects."

What's worse is that in a world of short sprints and rapid release cycles, it is a huge challenge to keep feature-focused software training up-to-date with the speed at which the software changes. How often have you changed content to match how screens now look in your software? Or how often have you taught a class only to have screen shots on slides not match the live screens you show. How many complaints have you received about knowledge base articles and video content being out of date? 

There are many reasons why we need to break free of training that is focused on features. For these reasons, we know we should spend more time educating customers on concepts, outcomes, and purpose when it comes to using our software. The challenge is breaking free of a feature-focused mindset, and into one in which the customer education team is seen as a partner with a customer to help them do their jobs better and achieve desired outcomes.

That is customer success.

Reimagine customer education

That is how we can position customer education as a strategic driver of customer success. This mindset is an opportunity to learn from jobs-to-be-done theory and use that as a framework for reimagining customer education. The first, and most practical, step we can take on this journey is to take our existing feature course and reverse engineer it into a job-focused course.

According to Tony Ulwick, author of Jobs-to-be-Done: Theory to Practice, "making the core functional job to be done the unit of analysis is the cornerstone of successful innovation." Said in our language of customer education, "making the core functional job the center of a training course is the cornerstone of a successful course." I argue that feature-focused software training "makes how the product works the purpose of a course." And this can easily miss the point that most people can do their job without your product so why should they pay attention to your features.  

They shouldn't.

Re-write learning objectives

One of the first and quickest things you should do is pick one course and list out all of the learning objectives. Then, re-write them using job statements. I suggest this step because overhauling entire courses is overwhelming, and if we take one small step towards converting our courses from feature focused to job, task, use case focused, we can make visible progress towards changing two things: 1) start teaching courses from the customer's point of view; and 2) flip how our customers view our courses from product driven to helping them do their job better. 

So let's start with writing job statements. Ulwick suggests writing job statements in the correct format. For example:

Job statement = verb + object of the verb (noun) + contextual clarifier

Let's say you are teaching customers how your reporting feature works. Instead of a learning objective like this:

Use the reporting tool to create various reports

You could write a job statement like this:

Create a report and deliver it to management in the right format

Better yet:

Create a monthly user activity report for the management meeting

By writing the job statement that way, it opens up the learning to not be tied to only using your product to do it. Remember, it is not about using your product feature. It is about helping the customer do a job, which is to get that report created and delivered. 

It also shows that you understand your customer well enough to know they probably create activity reports and present them in management meetings. 

Start with job statements

There is one lesson you should take from this blog and one task to accomplish as a result. First, the lesson is that we should teach our customers how to use our product only in the context of the job-to-be-done and not for the sake of teaching them the feature. This may not mean completely redesigning all of your courses right now. You can take one small step with one course right away. That is the task. Pick one of your courses and re-write all of the learning objectives from being feature-focused to a job statement. I recommend literally creating a two-column table. On the left side, list each existing learning objective; one in each row of the table. On the right side, write one or more job statements for each learning objective. Pick the one you like best. Finally, just replace those in your course and change nothing else in the content yet. Teach it once, ask for feedback. Adjust again.

That is all. 


[Webinar] Software Adoption Crash Course for Customer Education Leaders

Maria Manning-Chapman, vice president of education services research at TSIA, will be our guest on our upcoming webinar. She will talk about why customer education is ideal for driving adoption and how to do it. Manning-Chapman will talk about the research she has been conducting, and how you can leverage your customer education progams to drive customer adoption. Sign up now. 

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