The Keynote Speaker this year at the Visa Prepaid Card Forum was William Taylor, Founding Editor of Fast Company Magazine and author of the current best selling business book, Mavericks at Work; Why the Most Creative Business Minds Win, about 32 businesses that have broken the mold to find success.
“We are living in an age of disruption.” said Taylor. “Originality has become the acid test for a successful strategy.”
Taylor noted that one thing that all Mavericks have in common is a Disruptive Point of View. “Most successful companies today,” he said, “try to redefine terms of competition.”
Taylor pointed out that two-thirds of front-line employees in corporate America cannot answer the simple question, “Why should I do business with you rather than your competitor down the street?”
In today’s environment, Taylor said, there is an opportunity for businesses to introduce a new set of ideas. Each organization, he said, must be the most of something. It is no longer an option for companies to try to be good at lots of things.
“What happens when you look at an industry with fresh eyes is an ING Direct,” said Taylor. “Founded in September 2000, the originators envisioned a new way to be a bank. Now they are adding 100,000 new customers and $1 billion in new deposits every month.”
In addition to being web-based, Taylor said what really makes ING Direct a success is their unique point of view and a value system that is most important to them.
“They are on a mission to lead American’s back to saving,” said Taylor. “They want to make saving money cool again. They are to banking what iPod is to music and what Southwest is to airlines.”
The ING model, according to Taylor is easy. It is a simple product offering with no fees, no paper-based checking accounts, and no credit cards. He calls them intentionally edgy and colorful in stark contrast to traditional banks.
“They take so much pride in their way of doing business that ING Direct fires over 5,000 customers each month,” Taylor said.
How do you manage to get fired as an ING customer? Make too many calls to customer service, have too many transactions in and out of the account, demand products and services that are not part of the simple product offering.
According to Taylor, ING Direct is simply not prepared to change from their focus and the customers that their platform is built to serve.
“The only sustainable form of business leadership is thought leadership,” said Taylor.
He challenged companies to see things in their space that competitors do not see and to ask themselves the question, if I went out of business tomorrow, would anybody miss me?
So how does a company cut through the clutter? Taylor suggests the best way to stand out is to emotionally and psychologically charge whatever it is you do. ING has found a way to do this in banking, and Zappos.com has found the formula in the business of selling shoes.
Taylor said that the Henderson, Nevada, based Zappos.com is now doing $1 billion in annual shoe sales over the web. Yes, shoe sales. The one piece of clothing that you really need to try on and wear before you buy. So how are they dong it?
“It is all about customer engagement,” said Taylor. “A real person comes on the phone when you call the company, and they will spend an unlimited amount of time with you helping you go through the largest selection of shoes available anywhere.”
Additionally, the company will ship you several sizes of the shoe you want and so you can find the best fit. There is no charge for shipping the shoes to you, or for returning the ones you do not want to keep.
Taylor says that one of Zappos.com biggest worries today is making sure that they continue to staff their company with people who drink the Kool-Aid. In fact, they are so committed to weeding out those who are not destined to become superstars in their organization, that they offer new employees $2,000 in cash to leave the company after they have finished an extensive training program. Apparently, they are not getting enough takers, and that worries Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hsieh.
So, how can this learning apply to the health care industry and especially health insurance plans? Currently, it seems that most health plans are trying to be good at a lot of things: individual insurance, group insurance, ASO, consumer-directed health plans, Medicare, Medicaid… Where the disruption? Where is that company who is re-defining the competition? Who is the ING Direct of the health insurance industry? Maybe one large insurance company does come to mind. Can you quack like a duck?
Can your organization’s front line employees explain why your customers should do business with your company rather than the one down the street? How are you redefining competition? What is your company’s unique point of view, what’s your emotional and psychological passion? What is your company doing the most of? What thought leadership is your company providing to the industry?
These are all good questions to ponder at a time when the health insurance industry is under a great deal of scrutiny from several sectors. This is the time when innovators and disruptors that can emotionalize their brand will come to the forefront.