Paul CorkePaul CorkeJune 6, 2018
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5min386

Paul Corke is the Leadership Development Manager at credit firm MBNA, and was a judge at the recent 2018 UK Employee Experience Awards. Here he tells CXM about his judging experience… 

I have worked in the financial services sector for over 20 years, specialising in leadership development, so it was great to receive a call to be asked to be a judge at the UK Employee Experience Awards.

In previous years I have been part of teams entering awards, so I have an idea of the different types of emotions you feel when wining, or when you fail to pick up an award. This was the first time as a judge for me, so moving from providing a submission and presentation to being able to sit and listen to group presentations was quite the experience.

Being my first time as judge, there was a little bit of nervousness, but the plan was to project calm, enjoy the day, and have confidence in knowing I could ask the right types of questions. For me, being a judge is all about having a growth mindset – to want to listen, learn, and be curious about what is happening in other companies and across different industries.

It’s a great way to learn what current thinking is, who different companies are working with, what is cutting edge, and to scan different industries in your field of expertise. What I found was that each business is generally very unique, but often have similar issues – though different ones based on where they are in their life cycle.

This makes it interesting, but also a challenge for the judges with different sized organisations competing against one another at those different stages of their life cycle. I wasn’t disappointed by the teams, as I saw some great presentations along with some amazing projects, initiatives, and strategies.

The biggest thing I learnt from the process is that the initial submission is really important, as it needs to be well-thought through, providing real insight into how the company’s strategy has made a difference. For me, when scoring as a judge it really does make you realise exactly what should be going into the submission and the importance of taking your time to get this right. The presentations I observed were excellent, with an opportunity to ask questions, so backing this up with a great submission is key to success if you want to pick up an award.

We used a scoring mechanism where each judge scores both the submission and the presentation. Prior to this opportunity, I believed that the judges had a discussion to decide who would win based on what they had read and seen. But it was the opposite, where judges individually rate each company and then scores are added up to ensure you have a winner based on objective scoring. Yes there is a little time for debate between each presentation, but each judge then decides how they will individually score each company. It makes it very objective and fair.

It was also great to meet fellow judges and to learn about. It was interesting to hear the types of questions they ask the groups to see where their focus was compared to mine.

Overall, the whole experience – from reading submissions, to presentations, to the Awards dinner itself – was excellent and brilliantly co-ordinated. You really do feel the excitement for the winners and it’s a fantastic way to meet like-minded individuals. I would highly recommend the experience because it enables you to benchmark yourself in your field and gain valuable insight. I’m looking forward to being part of a judging panel again soon.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 5, 2018
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5min368

The UK Customer, Digital, and Employee Experience Awards have received the Gold Standard Awards Trust Mark from the Independent Awards Standards Council.

The honour was bestowed on hosts Awards International for their trio of ‘Experience’ awards, along with the UK Complaint Handling Awards and the UK Business Awards.

Awards International is one of the first awards event organisers in the UK to receive the coveted accreditation, which rewards ethics and transparency throughout the entire awards process – from when entries are first submitted, to when winners take to the stage to accept trophies.

Awards International events – including the flagship UK Customer Experience Awards, which this year takes place at London’s Wembley Stadium on October 11 – feature independent judging panels, allowing for a rigorous but fair judging process, ensuring the winners represent the best in each category.

The Independent Awards Standards Council (IASC) is a not-for profit organisation made up of stakeholders in the awards industry. It was established with the aim of raising standards and perceptions of trust in awards as a whole, for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Congratulating Awards International on its achievement, Chris Robinson, Co-Founder of the Independent Awards Standards Council, and MD of the world’s first award entry consultancy, Boost Marketing, said:

Awards International events are exemplars in how awards should be operated. Their attention to every detail, from the transparency of the scoring system, to the briefings provided to judges, to the quality of websites, the clarity of the entering process, and the quality of customer service throughout, is exemplary. I hope more schemes will aspire to this level of service and also earn the Gold Standard Awards Trust Mark.”

He continued:

The need for the Trust Mark, and the elements within an agreed code of conduct, are based on research by Boost Marketing that gained input from both awards entrants and organisers. According to Boost’s research, the average score given by businesses when asked ‘how well does the awards industry meet your needs’ was just 5.7 out of 10. But around 80 percent of businesses entering awards would be influenced by an independent accreditation scheme when picking awards to enter.

It found that transparency was essential, and that most awards organisers were willing to consider such a scheme. The research also showed that perceived trust in the judging process used in an awards scheme is one of the most influential factors for businesses in picking schemes to enter.

The big picture for the IASC is that the UK aspires to lead the world in business awards, setting the standard to which the rest of the world aspires. This will improve the credibility and thus popularity and impact of awards schemes, for the benefit of all stakeholders within the awards industry.”

Meanwhile, Neil Skehel, CEO of Awards International, said:

Thank you to the Independent Awards Standards Council for this incredible honour. This is fantastic recognition for the work we do to ensure every awards programme is carried out to the highest standard with the most credible judging process possible. Thank you to everyone who has helped us develop our events over the past decade, and we will continue to reward and celebrate business excellence and innovation in the UK.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMay 18, 2018
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10min614

Some of the best businesses in the UK to work for have been honoured at the 2018 UK Employee Experience Awards.

Taking place in the heart of London at the Park Plaza hotel overlooking the Thames, the spectacular day-long event saw the winners of 22 categories take to the stage following a morning of detailed presentations before expert judging panels.

Firms, including some of the best-known brands in the UK, outlined strategies and initiatives that lead to high staff satisfaction and retention rates, and explained how this translated into customer satisfaction and even boosted profits.

Attendees also enjoyed a day of networking opportunities and met with representatives from the event’s influential partners. This year, they included employment engagement specialists Benefex; global professional services provider FDM; Cranfield School of Management; Therapy Solutions; and the new venture from awards judge Donna O’Toole, August: The Awards Consultancy, the world’s first online course designed to help firms win awards and significantly raise their profile.

Meanwhile, also partnering the awards was The World Employee Experience Institute, and its founder Ben Whitter, AKA Mr Employee Experience himself, met with finalists throughout the day and also took to the stage during the gala ceremony to share valuable insights.

The event was also sponsored by children’s charity Barnardo’s, which outlined to attendees their amazing work in rescuing victims of child sexual exploitation.

The highlight of the day was the award presentations, which saw wholesalers Bidfood UK take home the coveted Overall Winner title after an outstanding victory in the Team of the Year category.

Other notable success stories includes London’s Jubilee Street Practice, which won Overall Best Employee Engagement, and the Holly Private Hospital in Essex, which won an amazing three category titles: Employee Engagement – Values & Strategy; Reward & Recognition; and Talent Management.

Speaking with Customer Experience Magazine, Ben Whitter said:

“Employee Experience is one of the most important aspects of business in the UK, and this event is the premier celebration of that.

“I have heard of some truly amazing EX initiatives in the run-up to today’s event, and I was lucky enough to tour the HQ of finalists to see for myself exactly why they deserve to be here today competing for these titles. They are all raising the standard for other businesses and I salute each and every one of them.”

Meanwhile, Matt Nathanielsz of Benefex added:

“EX is a massive trend in industries after years of being overlooked and undervalued. It’s great to see so many companies making the experience for their employees so special.”

Judges were also “hugely impressed” with the presentations. Judging Chairperson Hina Sharma, Head of Communications with Pitney Bowes UK, said:

“What was most impressive for me and many of the judges was how the finalists linked their employee engagement initiatives to overall business success. That standard of entries was exceptional. Well done to all who entered.”

Neil Skehel, CEO of hosts Awards International, added:

“It was fantastic to see so many inspiring companies who are leading the way in effective employee experience. Congratulations and thank you to all of our finalists, winners, and judges. See you again next year.”

Employee Engagement – Recognition & WellbeingStaysure

Employee Engagement – Growth by Design – Startle

Diversity & Inclusion –  Sky

Employee Engagement – Values & Strategy – The Holly Private Hospital

Employee Engagement – Transforming through EX – Jubilee Street Practice

Employee Engagement – EX Design – Manpower Group

Health & Wellbeing – Let’s get healthy

Insight & Feedback – Sparks Grove and FCA

Learning & Development – BT Business and Blue Sky

Reward & Recognition – The Holly Private Hospital

Talent Management – The Holly Private Hospital

Innovation in Recruitment – Marketing VF

Business Transformation & Managing Change – Homeserve

Organisational Development – BT Business and Blue Sky

Thought Leader in Employee Experience – Rebecca Robinson, Sparks Grove

SME – The Holly Private Hospital

Technology for Productivity – LifeWorks

Agency of the Year – Manpower Group

Leader in Employee Experience – Marketing VF

Team of the Year – Bidfood UK

Overall Best Employee Engagement – Jubilee Street Practice

Overall Winner – Bidfood UK


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamMarch 26, 2018
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2min598

The 2018 UK Employee Experience Awards are fast approaching, and finalists are being encouraged to take advantage of an Early Bird offer for booking tables.

The awards finals are taking place in London’s Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel on May 17, while the list of finalists for each of the 20 categories now available to view at the official awards website, and here on CXM.

Among the household names competing in this year’s finals event are clothing retailer River Island, The Royal Bank of Scotland, and beer innovators Brewdog.

Categories include Best Talent Management, Best Innovation in Recruitment, and Agency of the Year.

Meanwhile, judges scrutinising presentations on the day include Lara Plaxton, head of HR at awards partners FDM. For a full list of judges, click here.

Finalists attending the daytime event – which will see presentations taking place in the morning, and winners announced during a gala lunch – are being encouraged to take advantage of an Early Bird table offer, which allows for an incredible £300 saving on a premium table booking for 10 people (which includes champagne and wine, and a choice of table close to the stage), and a standard table for 10.

A £40 saving on individual seats is also available within the same timeframe. The Early Bird offer on all tables ends at midnight on April 13.
For more information on the awards, which are also partnered with Benefex and the World Employee Experience Institute, click here.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 23, 2018
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6min565

Manuela Pifani is proof, if proof were needed, that award winners go on to achieve amazing things – on top of the success that brought them to the awards podium in the first place.

Having been at the vanguard of helping a range of firms improve their Customer Experience offering over the years in fixed employment roles, 2015 CX Professional of the Year, Manuela Pifani, is now helming her own consultancy business, allowing her greater freedom in indulging her passion – helping customers.

The University of Bologna alumni, who has made London the centre of her business activity, is one of only eight people to have been named CX Professional of the Year since the UK Customer Experience Awards were founded almost a decade ago.

This honour was bestowed thanks to her pioneering work with Direct Line Group (no strangers to awards success in various categories themselves thanks to Manuela) where she spent just under four years as Head of Customer Strategy and Experience.

Now she is her own boss at CXellence, a consultancy firm helping companies fulfil their Customer Experience goals at a time when quality CX delivery is more essential to business success than ever before.

Speaking of her journey, she said:

“For the last 15 years I have been in customer-focused leadership roles and this cemented an understanding in me that it is crucial to put the customer at the heart of any business strategy. If a business isn’t doing this, then it will never be successful in a sustainable way – it’s as simple and as brutal as that.
Being a CX leader is both an art and a science that requires an understanding of, and a deep empathy with, customers, as well as a range of technical and strategic skills. Once you can grasp this, then you can hone your passion and go on to improve your customers’ journeys for the benefit of your own business.

When I worked for Barclays, over 15 years ago, the concept of Customer Experience had yet to be fully established, and my focus was on driving service excellence, by improving . I wanted to improve efficiency of process and service delivery.

However, as over the subsequent years attention progressively shifted towards CX, my focus moved also towards building an effective Voice of the Customer programme and defining a clear customer strategy to better meet the needs and expectations of customers. These became the foundation upon which we built our customer journey design and improvement programme, also feeding into the development of omnichannel journey capabilities.

But this is not enough; the most important part of a CX strategy is to drive organisational realignment and cultural change, to ensure it is fully embedded in the DNA of the company.”

As to where she goes now with her many years of experience, Manuela said:

“I’m at the stage in my working life where I realise that delivering CX is a passion as much as a profession for me, and I want to be able to do it with more organisations and more often, under my own brand. I have the right amount of experience to confidently achieve my goals. I’m still in the early days of this new venture, but I’m certain that we are going to do wonderful things with many fabulous people.

Winning awards, meanwhile, adds a level of credibility that simply cannot be bought – it must be earned. They are benchmarks that show you are doing the right thing and achieving the right results. The motivation from that feeling of reward is fantastic, not just for individuals, of course, but for your entire team and all the business stakeholders who supported you in your journey.”

Entries are now open for the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards. For more information, click here.


Mandy HolfordMandy HolfordMarch 21, 2018
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9min539

Mandy Holford is Director of Customer Services at contact centre solutions firm Echo-U, and recently judged at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards. Here she describes, in her own words, how she went from an award winner herself, to a judge deciding the fate of others seeking recognition for their own business success…

Happily, I have felt the pure joy of hearing my business announced as winners on a number of occasions throughout my career in customer service and customer service outsourcing; heart pumping, adrenaline rushing, pure delight at achieving such success.

It’s such a wonderful feeling and, like a proud mum, I have seen similar excitement and pride in the faces of the teams around me when they realise they’ve won. That always touches me the most – seeing others relish in that moment of confirmation, of achievement, of brilliance. It’s such a powerful blast of emotion when you and your team connect with the winners’ announcement and release that tension of expectation, of want and urgent desire to win.

So it was with some early reluctance that I decided to leave entering awards to others in our business and challenge myself to sit on the ‘other side of the fence’ and judge whether or not people like me got to have that rush of positive emotions and achieve award success.

Has it delivered on emotion and excitement? Has being an awards judge offered a buzz and a sense of success and accomplishment? Bizarrely, yes!

I didn’t expect it to; I am not sure what I expected of the judging process but it’s been a great and different experience I have relished, and one I’d recommend.
My first choice for judging was the recent 2018 UK Complaints Awards, hosted by Awards International. Why complaints? Well, who in the consumer world doesn’t get complaints? Where there are customers, there are invariably complaints, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to engage in a world with a common purpose of learning, implementing new ideas, and managing complaints better. I have no problem with pinching great ideas and making them work for my business. Why re-invent the wheel, eh?

I really connected with the opportunity to learn from other great brands and emerging businesses. What did they do that was worthy of entering an award process? How did they manage complaints differently? Was it good processes, new technology, strong leadership, emotional intelligence, or emerging training techniques that offered them a different perspective and approach to managing unhappy customers? And so it began – I paid my fee to judge, followed the webinar to learn ‘How to Judge’, and set about enjoying my new responsibilities.

The first stage of this judging process was online – reviewing documented submissions with standard entry forms, presentations, and accompanying support materials. To be honest, this was an uninspiring start to the process; I wanted to see and hear people, feel their energy and emotions, but I had to wait a few weeks for that to happen.

On day one of the judging process, I and the other judges, had to be happy with a webportal, downloads, and endless paper spread across my desk. However, it didn’t take long though for the ideas and concepts to captivate me. In a category of just four entries, I spent two afternoons reviewing the content several times – I wanted to be sure I had understood, fairly evaluated, and not missed a single thought from those precious entries.

While the judging process itself was in full swing, there was another hive of activity going on with Awards International promoting the event. There was a real social media flow of new names, new connections, and great conversations happening with likeminded people. My LinkedIn pinged several times a day with ‘new connection’ requests and fabulous messages from these new contacts. Several online magazines @mentioned both the awards and specific judges and Twitter was alight with award promotion. There was quite a party going on!

The awards finals date – February 22 – arrived and at the gorgeous Park Plaza Hotel in London there was a buzz of activity and energy as the registration started. So much noise for 8am! After a coffee and chat to get to really know my fellow judges, we took our seats and the entry presentations began. I loved this part of the process – real people sharing their precious stories of challenge, determination, and success all in their own unique ways.

Entries that I had scored conservatively in the documented stage suddenly emerged as new favourites – video clips, storyboards, and animated presenters captivated us with their uniqueness and personalisation.

I have to admit to being energised and exhausted all at the same time when the final number went onto the final scoresheet. I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and with a rumbling hunger, ate our delicious lunch and waited to see if my favourites won their categories.

It’s important to note that we as judges do not see anyone else’s scores, either in the documented review or on the day. All scores are kept private, giving a real sense of fairness to the process, so I had no idea who would win.

With over 400 people in the room, the winners were announced and excitedly took to the stage with all of those trembling emotions I have enjoyed many times before. I felt so happy for the winners; to see their faces and excitement was such a reward. One of my category favourites won several awards which also made me incredibly happy (and validated that I had judged appropriately) but another one failed to make either winner or silver (runner-up). I was personally gutted for them and made a point of offering some personal thanks and thoughts to this team, who had given us a really worthy entry. Some you win, some you lose as they say!

There were many whoops of joy, fist-pumping moments, and a few tears of shock, and I wouldn’t have missed it for a moment. I thought I would miss being a winner but felt so connected to the event and its purpose that I was totally elated with just being a part of a special day for so many.

One of my mottos is, ‘when you give, you gain’ and this is so true of the judging activity. I paid my fees to judge, costs of travel to and from London, hotel costs, and gave a couple of days of my time, but in return I gained so much more. The buzz and emotion is priceless, the opportunity to connect and talk with likeminded people is highly rewarding, and there were great opportunities to learn and bring new ideas back with you. I even picked up two leads for our business on the day, so all in all, judging was a superb experience, highly emotional, and blooming exhausting!

However, I shall be back and look forward to many more special moments with other excited and anticipating audiences.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 20, 2018
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7min546

Skipton Building Society is the fourth largest building society in the UK, with 95 branches located across the country and a contact centre based in Bury, Lancashire. With entries now open for the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards, we look back at Skipton’s success at last year’s awards finals when they won their category with an outstanding entry…

Skipton Building Society provides a broad range of financial service products that support customers on their journey for the ‘Life Ahead’, while taking pride in offering outstanding customer service alongside quality products that make a difference.

Last year was their ever first entry into the UK Customer Experience Awards and they secured the top spot in the Customer at the Heart of Everything (Financial Services) category. Here, we take a look at Skipton’s Bury branch and its award-winning initiative focusing on improving services for people with dementia.

Context behind the initiative

As one of the largest threats to an ageing population, dementia affects over 850,000 people in the UK. With symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, and problems with speech and understanding, the branch at Bury knew they could help customers facing this challenge and become role models throughout the company.

They wanted to help this core segment of customers and were passionate about acting as influencers and encouraging others within Skipton to do the same.

The initiative and great Customer Experience delivered

The Bury initiative focused heavily on tailoring an approach suited to vulnerable customers with dementia. This meant that colleagues had to be educated and confident in their role to provide service and be able to better deal with situations involving vulnerable customers.

For the Bury branch, it was also critical that they educate the wider community, support those with dementia, and create a physical environment which was supportive and empathetic to the customer needs of this segment.

In order to achieve this, the following solutions were identified:

  1. The branch was taken out into the community where volunteering played a key part. Doing this allowed the Bury branch to raise local awareness of how dementia affects lives while also building brand awareness and consideration.
  2. National focus days were identified that engaged branches regardless of geography or location.
  3. The Bury team built a strong influence outside of the branch and connected with the wider community, becoming a force for change.
  4. Digital technologies were implemented that amplified learning amongst colleagues as well as in the Head Office.
  5. Recommendations were made to enhance and improve the experience for customers when visiting a branch.
  6. External experts were consulted to help support the team’s understanding and capability to provide support.
  7. The Bury branch had to demonstrate leadership by acting as role models in building and driving dementia awareness.
  8. Customer feedback had to be actively collected, listened to, and acted upon, and in doing so demonstrate that every customer has a voice and that customer input is greatly valued.
  9. Colleague feedback also had to be collected in order to build training and guidance that would help others and get them engaged in supporting customers with dementia, while also encouraging ideas and solutions from other parts of the business to improve and drive dementia awareness.

The implementation of these solutions also included a layered approach. The Bury branch influenced people both internally and externally in their community.

Their cause was taken to the local Mayor’s Charity and was commended and recognised locally. The Bury branch also engaged with many other local organisations and institutions that supported their cause, even being invited to a national recognition event at the Tower of London.

Internally, workshops have been created to engage staff which included training videos that support over 500 colleagues and counting.

Business impact and results

Apart from being praised by the Skipton Building Society at large, the Bury branch, along with its branch manager Imran Najeeb, demonstrated strong leadership and commitment to delivering colleague support, community engagement, and exceptional customer service.

The Bury branch also created a wave of viral change across the Skipton Building Society, inspiring senior leaders across the organisation to become engaged in providing more support for people with dementia.

The entire organisation has become much more supportive of this vulnerable customer segment and it continues to inspire and deliver exceptional results in both Customer Experience and community support.

The UK Customer Experience Awards 2018

Is your organisation delivering great customer experience?

If your company has already put the customer at the heart of everything, then entering the UK Customer Experience Awards is a fantastic way to achieve recognition for your initiatives.

Entering the awards is a valuable opportunity to bring your team together and celebrate your success. Not only that, the finalists receive a benchmarked feedback form from an expert panel of independent and impartial judges, following a live presentation at the awards finals in London’s Wembley Stadium.

For more information on entering this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards, click here.

 

 


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamMarch 19, 2018
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4min510

The upcoming CX Professional Masterclass is now sold out, but there is still time for you to book your place at the CCXP Exam Preparation Workshop, held in Stevenage on April 18, with an Early Bird Offer available until the end of this week.

What are the CX Masterclasses and Workshops?

The Customer Experience Masterclasses are a must for anyone wishing to master their CX skills, or become a certified CX Professional. The next available Masterclass will be announced in CXM at a later date

The CCXP Exam Preparation Workshop is designed to help attendees prepare for taking the CCXP Exam. The Workshop places a focus on understanding CXPA’s six competencies and the exam methodology, while offering sample questions for each competency.

Who is teaching them?

Ian Golding, CXM’s Non-Executive Editor, is a world-renowned CX trainer and the first person authorised by the CXPA to teach the CCXP accreditation. Ian has mentored around a quarter of all CCXPs globally to date.

He is a highly influential Customer Experience consultant who advises leading companies on CX strategy, measurement, improvement, and employee advocacy techniques and solutions.

Why become a Certified Customer Experience Professional?

  • Obtain professional recognition for your high level of knowledge of the CX industry
  • Demonstrate your expertise and accomplishments as a CX practitioner
  • Get formal credentials that showcase your standing in the CX industry
  • Increase marketability and demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement

Do you need to attend the Workshop to take the CCXP exam?

No, attending the Workshop is not a requirement for taking the exam. However, every exam re-sit or re-application carries a cost, and attending the workshop can reduce the likelihood of re-applying and make the whole process of becoming a CCXP more rewarding.

Ian’s Workshop Masterclass is designed to fully prepare you for taking the CCXP exam, boost your confidence and enable you to take the exam stress-free.

The early bird price (£195) is available until March 23.

Can you take the exam immediately after attending the CCXP Exam Preparation Workshop?

Yes. Everyone whose application has beforehand been accepted and approved by The Customer Experience Professionals Association is eligible to take the exam after attending the Workshop.

Check out your eligibility and the details about the application process here.

There are only a few spots left for Ian’s CCXP Exam Preparation Workshop. Those interested in attending are advised to book now.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamMarch 19, 2018
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2min476

The 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards will bring the cream of British CX talent back to London’s Wembley Arena this autumn, and potential entrants are being encouraged to take advantage of the Early Bird Offer to save businesses an amazing £100.

The awards will feature finalists competing in 22 categories, with presentations taking place before judging panels on the morning of October 11, before the winners are announced during a black tie gala dinner in the evening.

Categories open for entry include Best Small and Large Contact Centre; Best Hospitality, Leisure and Travel; and Best Customer Experience Training.

The final deadline for entries is June 8, with the shortlisted finalists being announced on June 22.

However, entries secured before midnight on Friday April 27 will save £100 off the standard entry price. Big savings can also be made for companies keen to enter additional categories when the order is made at the same time.

Those who apply for the Early Bird Offer by the April 27 deadline will still have until June 8 to submit their final entry forms.

For more information on categories and entering, visit the official 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards website.


Helen PettiferHelen PettiferMarch 14, 2018
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5min537

The 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards took place in London in February, and as a Customer Service Trainer, I was honoured to be invited to join the panel of judges.

Our panel was given responsibility for judging the Proactive Complaint Handling in the Utility Industry category. Five companies had been shortlisted and each one provided us with a written report and presentation. The aim was to highlight their approaches to both reduce complaints, and effectively manage complaints when they were received.

Investing in positive change

In truth, all of the nominated companies had been driven into action by the costs associated with poor complaint handling in the past.

OfWat (The Water Services Regulation Authority) governs the utilities industry and their objective is to build customer confidence in water and waste water services. As such, OfWat issues fines every time a customer makes a formal complaint and if the complaint isn’t resolved within 10 days, the fine increases.

With the cost of fines impacting on profits, the five finalist companies had recognised the value of investing in positive change.

As a judge, I wanted to see evidence of the companies stretching beyond the standards set by OfWat. In order to be praised for proactive complaint handling, I was looking for changes to the company culture and initiatives that were clearly rooted in delivering customer service excellence.

Complaint handling champions

It was fascinating to see the different approaches to tackling the problem and presenting the information. The judging panel learnt all about ‘training igloos’, recruitment campaigns, and processes to enhance efficiency.

All measures had clearly made a tangible difference to internal complaint handling procedures, but one company’s approach really stood out. United Utilities was presented with the Proactive Complaints Handling Award, and the decision was unanimous.

United Utilities

Serving 7 million customers in the north-west of England, United Utilities had been on the receiving end of too many complaints and they were taking too long to resolve them. There were no systems in place to learn from customer feedback, so many problems kept reoccurred. The company had earned a poor reputation and staff morale was low. They realised it was time for radical change.

What impressed me was that, rather than simply bolting on additional resources, the company involved the whole team in developing ideas to transform performance. They addressed their response to complaints and how to use customer feedback to inform change. In addition, they had adopted innovative ideas to reduce the number of complaints that are reported.

Speaking with customers

One noticeable point was the benefits of speaking directly with customers. Emails and letters have their place, but a telephone conversation on the day that the complaint was received has proved far more effective. A conversation helps to quickly clarify, and in some cases resolve, the issue.

Another strategy was to use a company bus and covered stands to have an active presence in the towns they were serving. This approach made the company far more approachable. Its impact has been especially beneficial when a burst main or other issue has had an impact on multiple customers. They’ve been there in person to provide information, updates, and practical support.

Reputation restored

Being party to the presentations, I took great delight from the fact that these companies had worked hard to restore their reputation and regain customers’ trust. The starting point was admitting the problem and having the motivation to take action.

Any business should openly seek the opinion of customers and not just those who they know will deliver a glowing report. Complaints may be hard to take, but it is better to know when you aren’t meeting customer expectations, because it gives you the opportunity to improve.

The awards provided evidence that any company can become successful, if they focus on delivering a truly customer orientated service.




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