People or systems?

Chris Garrett says I’m wrong about the Westin. That they should fix their systems, not their people.

I can’t think of one world class service organization (whether it’s someone selling million dollar computers to corporations or Starbucks) that has figured out how to replace great people with great systems.

The best organizations have principles and guidelines and even, yes, scripts. But time and again, they fall back to, "Use your best judgment" or "Do what’s right for the customer" or "Make something magical happen" or "Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen."

When a hotel chain empowers a maid to spend up to $500 to make it right (using her own discretion), that’s not a system, that’s trusting great people to do the right thing.

The problems with systems?
1. if you rely on them too much, your people stop trying, and your hiring people realize they don’t have to get such great people.
2. sooner or later, it’s going to get copied by the competition. It’s a lot easier to copy a system than it is to get great people.

JetBlue is first and foremost about the people Amy Curtis hired and trained. The systems allow the great people to do great work.

Yes, if you can automate it in a way that increases satisfaction, do it right away. Use an ATM system instead of the front desk at the hotel. Use an automated wake up call system. But then put the money you save into wonderful people at the concierge desk.