ERP – Empathy, Relationships and Partnering. Why ERP vendors don’t get it but my taxi driver does.
I’m sitting at Helsinki Airport after a wonderful couple of days meeting with Gartner clients and discussing their challenges and opportunities for their ERP programs. Each Gartner client has unique goals and ambitions but all appear to have something in common: terrible ERP vendor experience.
It is not surprising to anyone that has spent more than a week working in Enterprise Applications that application vendors often don’t win any awards for being kind and cuddly. This after all isn’t their goal. What does amaze me though is that there is a common lack of professionalism and if ERP vendors were rated on Empathy, Relationships and Partnering many would get an ‘F’.
I often hear stories of aggressive sales tactics, license audits, confusing pricing, undelivered promises and poor ongoing support and not just here in Finland. To be fair, no-one calls a Gartner analyst to tell us how wonderful their ERP vendor is but after thousands of interactions with Gartner ERP clients, my colleagues and I must concur that there is some grain of truth in all of this.
The question is ‘why?’. If i have a bad experience at a hotel or restaurant, i let people know about it on TripAdvisor and i don’t give them my business again. If i buy something online and the product / service isn’t what i expect then I do the same. However when interacting with many ERP vendors Gartner clients have come to expect an experience that a used-car salesman in a plaid jacket and greased-back hair would be ashamed of. I think it is because it is very easy to change hotel or restaurant but migrating from one ERP vendor to another is difficult and there is no guarantee that things will get better.
I live in the middle of nowhere in Scotland and when traveling i use the same taxi service and driver. On a recent trip he told me a story about a little old lady in one of the local villages who calls him every week to take her to the local shops. He said that the journey is less than half a mile there and back and she is only in the shop for about 30 minutes and she pays him £5 each time which isn’t enough to cover his costs but that was the price they agreed on many years ago and he honours his promises.
When i asked him why he didn’t just tell her to call someone else occasionally he said ‘It’s basic customer service and I run a decent company. She doesn’t see her family very often and doesn’t have many people to talk to so her weekly trip to the shops is as much about social interaction as it is about buying milk. We have a great relationship, she trusts me and she tells me all about her kids and grandkids. And every Christmas all 17 of her kids and grandkids come to visit and I am the only taxi service that any of them use to/from the airport, for evenings out and all other day trips. Overall I make about £2000 every holiday season from her and her family but that is the positive outcome of a great relationship and was not the objective when I first accepted that fare many years ago.’
A couple of ERP vendors are making very positive changes to address what they know is no longer a tenable approach but their customers are not yet feeling the benefit. The first ERP vendor to really differentiate themselves based on demonstrable Empathy, Relationships and Partnering may find a sea of customers flooding towards them.
They should be more like my taxi driver and less like Travis Bickle.
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