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Aiming for best in class? Instead, aim for what matters

By: Alex Moral, President, Trustmark Voluntary Benefit Solutions

“Best in class” is a phrase that gets thrown around all the time in the business world. In the auto industry, how often do you hear “best in class safety”? Or, in just about any industry, “best in class service”? It’s a common phrase, but it’s also one that has never made much sense to me. Instead of aiming for best in class, why not aim for something that matters?

Why best in class doesn’t help

When you talk about being best in class, you’re making a comparison to competitors and saying that you excel above the competition in a given service or feature. The issue is that you may be addressing a weak point in the industry as a whole or, simply, no one in the industry may be good in the area you’re claiming to be best in class.

Take, for example, a cigarette company claiming best in class health benefits. Or a waste removal company that touts its best in class cleanliness. It’s akin to being the world’s largest mosquito or the fastest turtle. Those are extreme examples, but it goes to show that being ahead of the competition doesn’t mean you’re offering consumers what they want. 

In fact, aiming to be “best in class” can even have the opposite effect of what was intended. By focusing on what your competition is doing and trying to one-up them, you may actually be decreasing your value to customers. You may be adding to your product, but maybe what you already have is the right fit both in what you’re delivering to customers and in what they’re paying. Trying to be “best in class” may take you out of that sweet spot. A coffee shop offering the hottest coffee in town won’t be successful if they’re consistently burning their customers’ mouths.   

Aiming for what matters

It’s easy to get stuck in that mindset of trying to top your competitors. But if you’re looking at what your competition is doing, you’re allowing them to dictate how you operate and, in that case, you’re looking in the wrong direction. Instead, you need to be looking at what the consumer needs or, even better, getting their feedback and listening to what they need.

By listening, you may find that simply trying to one-up the competition you’re addressing an issue in tiny increments, when, by taking a different approach, you could improve by leaps and bounds. Changing perspectives can lead to innovation because you’re creating products or services from a blank slate, not improving on what exists.

At Trustmark, we implement this approach in everything that we do. Take, for example, our Critical HealthEvents product; instead of simply trying to squeeze higher benefits into a traditional Critical Illness policy, we listened to what our consumers were saying. Doing so showed us that there is a small list of conditions which account for the vast majority of critical illness claims. We took a completely different approach to our product that goes above and beyond because it was developed, literally, with the voice of the customer. When you aim for what matters: the needs of your customers, you sometimes end up in a completely different class that doesn’t even really compare to your competitors. That’s where we like to live.

In any industry, it’s a competition. The nature of business makes it easy to become focused on the competition and to try outdo them; to be “best in class”. But that approach confines you and can be counterproductive. On the other hand, you can never go wrong listening to the voice of your customers. Doing so will help you to aim higher than simply being “best in class”, you’ll be in a class of your own to your customers, which is what really matters.

About the author

Alex joined Trustmark in July 2006 as Vice President and Actuary of Voluntary Benefit Solutions. Prior to joining Trustmark, Alex worked for American United Life, Horace Mann Life, GE and AIG. He has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of the Philippines and a master’s degree in actuarial science from Ball State University. Alex is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA) and a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA). He also holds the FLMI and CEBS designations.

Posted on October 12, 2017 in Industry Trustmark

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