Decades and decades later, you still remember the shadow and swish of nuns. I also remember verbatim, like the pop song to which you first fell in love, the Goethe and Schiller of Sister Margaret Mary’s German poetry class, indelibly tattooed on my memory.

Executive Summary

Carriers enthralled with KPIs and other measures of best-in-class service to their preferred customers are missing the lessons that Innovation Consultant Karen Morris draws from her childhood—when a nun teaching German literature delivered her lessons discriminately and coincidentally set boundaries on possible student questions. Like a wimple-clad teacher, insurers blinded by rules and performance metrics may miss—or purposefully dismiss—signs of disruptive influence, paying homage to their own truths built around the products they have designed to sell. Turning to a different German teacher, Peter Drucker, Morris invokes his sine qua non for business success—attracting and retaining customers—and suggests that insurers in pursuit of truly customer-centric models start thinking about customer problems instead of devising enticements around the features of existing products.

Her God-given mission was to get her riff-raff scholarship students fixed on culture; she was a prose pusher, a poetry pimp, a genius locked in her holy habit determined to get us hooked on habits beyond our own or anyone’s expectations of us. (The vocations of youngest unmarried daughters of impoverished Catholic aristocrats may have been more social than sacred.)

The Holy Sister did not give a buck and change for “customer experience.” Her “girls” could arrive by passion or pain. Either way.

In this, Mother Margaret Mary presaged the modern quandary of customer experience; her attention cleaved only to academically exceptional pupils. The rest were knuckle-rapped knuckleheads. This discriminatory segmentation is fondly familiar to those who pursue a strategy of ranking and rendering service to customers hierarchically.

It is elegantly logical if your goal is to accord service levels in proportion to absolute predictive returns on investment. Naturally, customers whose value corresponds to certain venerated classes of precious metals or jewels deserve “better” service. To repurpose Eric Arthur Blair (aka, George Orwell): All customers are equal, but some are more equal than others.

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