In this series on the lessons ERP Services Providers can learn from the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, we have examined the importance of catering to customer needs and the power of enabling partnerships. We saved the most important aspect of the Four Seasons pledge of “outstanding customer experience” for last: employees.
Companies must focus on their employees. When you take good care of your employees, they take good care of your business. Leading employers in the U.S. know this and are increasing their investment in the wellbeing of their workforce.
In a recent interview with Forbes.com, Isadore Sharp, the founder and chairman of Four Seasons, remarked on the relationship between his employees and his company commitment to customer experience: “That led to the next decision, which that if we were to accomplish this goal, the only people who are capable of performing that task are the people who work in the hotel, from the low level to the high level. Everybody who worked in the hotel had to be able to give the customer a sense of a sincere level of service.
If we were asking them to perform at this high level, we had to make sure we gave them what they needed: What would these employees need to inspire them to treat customers this way? That’s when we put in place a commitment to the Golden Rule: treating people with the dignity and respect that they’re entitled to, creating a work environment that led everybody to rise to their best self, creating a team spirit that everybody recognized their particular role was crucial in performing this level of service we were talking about.”
Yes! Employees must be cultivated and empowered to be their best self. Good communication is the foundation to making such a work environment possible. Let’s look at what utilization rates tell us. I’ve seen many ERP services organizations evaluate and compensate employees purely based on utilization. Companies use this to incentivize employees to get the most billable hours possible. While I do not think that this is necessarily a bad practice, it is an incomplete one. There are other, possibly more important, areas of focus such as customer feedback that will better illuminate productivity, client-happiness, and employee satisfaction.
As a leader in IT, I rarely received a phone call from a consulting company asking for feedback on their consultants working with us on several engagements. We’d spend sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars but would not get a single phone call. How would they know if the consultant did a good job? Just by looking at their utilization rate? Only by speaking to the consultant? That tells you a story, but not the full story. Companies should engage and work closely with their customers, spend time understanding team dynamics, and assign resources accordingly. Then follow up and ask for feedback and allow for a continuous dialogue. Good communication like this engenders trust and facilitates the kind of flexibility and adaptation that ensure a great customer experience. It also provides insight into employee satisfaction or dissatisfaction—happy employees usually generate the best results.
ERP Services providers must also equip their employees with the tools they need to be their best. Training and career development are essential. I can’t even say how many times I have come across consultants who knew their ERP inside and out but could not write an effective email or run a meeting. Services firms must ensure that they level-set their consultants to ensure that every customer has clear expectations of the type of communication and scope of work that they will encounter. On the other side, employees will begin to understand the impact of their day-to-day communications, which will allow them to continue to grow into better professionals.
Whether you are an ERP Services Provider or an ERP Services User, it is important to observe and learn from the ways companies in other industries successfully provide outstanding customer experience. Like the Four Seasons, your company success depends upon people. And though people are naturally imperfect, we are infinitely creative and have tremendous potential to solve problems. That is the beauty of this business. It’s the people that enable a best-in-class experience that can bring positive and impactful change to organizations.
About the Author
Bernardo Enciso is Managing Director at SquareWorks Consulting. He is a passionate ERP expert with more than 10 years of experience. He has managed and/or implemented Business Applications such as NetSuite, Epicor, Concur, Workday, Deltek Vision and many others. He is based out of Boston, MA.