--- Frances X Frei
Contrarian ideas intrigue. In the Harvard Business Review, Frances X Frei makes interesting observations. We know we can't be everything to everyone. So we specialize to succeed (see Thoughts on The Dip by Seth Godin). How much thought do we give to the side effects: things we've chosen to do poorly, perhaps unconsciously? Frei finds that most successful companies "perform badly at some things in order to excel at others". We'll look at lessons from three companies in the worlds of banking, car insurance and software.
"The world did not need another 'me-too' bank. I had no capital, no brand name, and I had to search for a way to differentiate from the other players."Since 1973, Commerce Bank has grown "its retail customer base dramatically even though its rates are among the worst". A portion of the market prefers convenience (longer opening hours) and personal attention in exchange for higher prices and fewer products
--- Vernon Hill, founder of Commerce Bank
- benefit: longer opening hours and personal attention
- cost: higher prices and fewer products
Progressive Casualty Insurance
"People are pathologically price sensitive about car insurance and almost never select anything but the rock-bottom quote."Progressive includes competitors' prices in their car insurance quotes even though they get beaten half the time. Why? Their actuaries feel they have accurately estimated the probability of a claim. If another company gets the client, Progressive wins in two ways
- avoids an unprofitable client
- saddles the competitor with an unprofitable client
DIRST: Do It Right The Second TimeSoftware companies rarely provide free customer support due to the cost. Why does Intuit? They see customer calls as an important input for product development --- an investment rather than an expense. Intuit wants to know "what users are trying to accomplish and how they are being frustrated". Paradoxically, producing better software reduces the calls. And makes calls more important.
--- Scott Cook, founder of Intuit