Thinking products and services with structure 'from the customer's perspective' (Part 3)

December 21, 2018

Dr Reinhard Ematinger


The third part concludes the series and describes my understanding of how to prepare for a successful start to your work. Information and decisions that you need and materials that will support you in your work in the best possible way.

Click here for part 1 and part 2



Your idea for a fresh product or an exciting service is the perfect starting point - you don't need much more at the beginning. However, the better you have already structured your idea, the easier it is to 'zoom' into the Customer Jobs Canvas. A first draft of your future offer in the form of a Business Model Canvas with a description of the most important customer segments, the benefits, the communication and sales channels and possible revenue models helps enormously, especially when working in a team, to have a common understanding of the starting point and to be able to return to it again and again.

Initial tests of your assumptions, for example about the addressable market, the competition from your point of view and from your customers' point of view, the main differences to offers from the estimated competition and the willingness to pay of the targeted customer segments also help to develop a common picture.



When making your selection, don't be tempted to view organisations as customer segments just because it seems easier to handle at first glance. In the course of your work with the Customer Jobs Canvas notice that companies or departments rarely have emotional tasks (Building Block 6, described in Part 2), that the compensatory behaviour of a large organisation (Building Block 8) cannot be described particularly well, and that supporting and hindering forces (Building Blocks 11 and 12) can be pinned down much more precisely to individuals. This gives you useful results that will be of great help to you in planning the next steps and communicating the benefits.

Similar to working with the Business Model Canvas it is necessary to think in terms of customer segments as people who fulfil roles in order to gain relevant insights. If personas already exist, experience has shown that they are a perfect start for working with the Customer Jobs Canvas.



Regardless of the starting point, you will work in a structured way with the Customer Jobs Canvas into the depths to get to the "Why will my customers buy?". That is the plan. My experience shows that a solid understanding of the chosen customer segment is an absolute prerequisite for this. If you don't know the customer segment well enough, get fellow thinkers who are in constant contact with these customers - repetitive guesswork is no fun for you and your team and rarely leads to useful results.


Particularly in the start-up phase, consider a suitable lead time for an invitation to a workshop or an interview on the customer segments for 'internal' co-thinkers who may often be travelling or even external partners. This sounds like simple wisdom, but experience has shown that it is a serious hurdle if you want to make rapid progress. A quick collection of ideas may help to answer the question of who should be involved in working with the Customer Jobs Canvas should not be missing.



People have 'jobs to do', products do not. It's not about what products 'have to do', but how products and services support people. If you find yourself or your fellow thinkers assigning tasks to products and expressing thoughts such as "The task of the smartphone is ...", this is a good time to pause for a moment. A walk around the block with the dog helps enormously here, and animal shelters are happy to help out.


A smartphone is the solution, not the task - it makes our lives easier because we can answer emails on the go, keep a firm grip on our calendars, book train tickets and find the shortest route. Products and services don't have a real life that you can make easier or better. They have no special motivation, no hard-to-achieve goals and no hurdles to overcome - even if you may have already had the opposite experience with Alexa or Siri.



In addition to a Customer Jobs Canvas For each customer segment in A0 format, you need at least one pad of sticky notes per person involved. Square post-its® in the standard format of 76 * 76 mm are perfect for the amount of information needed for a clear description. Depending on the paper surface of the canvas, different brands and designs adhere differently - if you don't want to organise a scavenger hunt after a coffee break or dog walk, make sure you choose the "sticky notes" version. Believe me.


Use pens with a line width that 'encourages' legible writing and good legibility at a normal distance from the canvas. I recommend fibre-tip pens such as Stabilo 88 in black (colour 46) for good reason, as the line width fits perfectly and the ink does not bleed through onto blank sheets. To attach the canvas, it is best to use adhesive tape that will not damage wall paint or wallpaper: I suggest the "blue 80" series from Scotch or similar products for sensitive surfaces.



I would like to offer you two options for a successful start to the presentation of your results: A close-up - from the large picture to the detail - or a wide-angle perspective - from the detail to the large picture.



You may want to present the results of your work 'from big picture to detail' to make your thought processes comprehensible: The concept developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur and published in the bestseller Business Model Generation described Business Model Canvas has been offering a standard in the best sense of the word for 10 years with which business models can be described and tested. Here you will find the pdf for download.

On the one hand, the canvas provides clarity about the current business model and, on the other hand, forms a comprehensible starting point for your ideas that are conceived 'from the customer's perspective'. The nine building blocks, which represent the four most important areas of an organisation, describe your most important customers, the benefits of your offering, the necessary infrastructure and financial viability.

Your advantage when using the Business Model Canvas' As an introduction, this results from the manageable mental 'effort' of your audience for familiarisation: experience has shown that the structure with nine elements can be explained in five minutes, even to people who are not familiar with the canvas. From there, it is easy to make the 'zoom' into the individual customer segments comprehensible.

The changeover from the Business Model Canvas the 'big picture' and the details in the form of the Customer Jobs Canvas The questions about the motivation of the individual customer segments shown in the example are easily answered without media discontinuity and allow your counterpart to follow your arguments without losing sight of the big picture.



You may want to present the results of your work 'from detail to big picture' in order to make the necessity of activities comprehensible using a few crisp examples: The following are suitable for this User stories or Customer Stories good.

Nothing wrong with the User Storywhich has its origins in agile project management, more precisely in the Product backlogwhich in turn replaces requirements documents such as specifications or functional specifications. The Product backlog lists everything that is involved in the successful delivery of a product. The User Storydescribes a product property from the user's point of view, its form is rather simple:

  • As a (persona), I want (certain functionality) in order to (benefit from it).

Sven Winkler gives the example "As a regular customer Ralf Müller, I would like a notification so that I can see whether my order has been successfully received in the system". These and similar descriptions are perfectly fine when it comes to 'grown-up' products or services or improving the current offering. In my opinion, however, they leave too much room for assumptions about the customers and their use of the offer. In addition, there is a complete lack of causality - what exactly is causing the customer to want Ralf Müller?

If you want to design and test a new offer in your current phase, emphasising the Who and the How possibly not a good start: among other things, the spatial and temporal context is missing here, and - much more importantly - the Why is also missing. I therefore invite you to test this proposal for usability:

  • If (situation), then I would like (motivation) to achieve (desired result).

The previous example could then sound like this: "When I order on my smartphone while travelling, I want to be sure that the order has arrived at the supplier so that I can continue my journey in a relaxed manner". The triad of situation, motivation and result results in a coherent and comprehensible 'story'. Now the context and causality become clear, and the Why of each customer segment is also answered briefly and succinctly.



If you want to present your findings as briefly as possible, the format of the Customer Jobs Canvas' far too extensive. No secret. For this reason, I have researched the options for short presentations and put together a very simple formula. I have tested this formula extensively for reactions from the audience and call it the Five-second pitch. Gladly also the dreaded Five-second pitch. You are also welcome to test whether it is useful to you:

  • Our (product or service) helps (most important customer segment) with (important functional task) by providing (solution without going into 'technical' details) and thus answering (important emotional or social task)

An example could be "An illustrated strategy picture helps project managers in their presentation to the management by presenting the corporate strategy in a comprehensible and lively way, making the project managers appear competent and stress-free".

Another good example is the chauffeur service Blacklane under the heading "Peace of Mind": "Blacklane's realtime service monitoring, integrated flight tracking and 24/7 customer case ensure on-time pickups and avoid unnecessary charges for waiting time". All in all, the most important emotional tasks of customers, namely being picked up on time and not having to pay charges for waiting time, are emphasised here and the result is "peace of mind".

car-woman-customer-serviceIn this way, you create an introduction that is short enough to provide sufficient information and yet arouses curiosity for more. Good luck with your 'customer-centred' products and services!


innoWerft guest article by Dr Reinhard Ematinger
Expert for business model innovation
Reinhard invites managers to "think" their products and services from the perspective of their customers. More than 100 semesters of lectures, several books and more than 20 years of experience in consulting, business development and corporate universities ensure the relevance of his work.