Former teacher Gareth Byrne was voted Professional of the Year at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards. He tells Customer Experience Magazine why he is so passionate about education and how he enjoyed the awards process.

Pearson is the world’s leading education company. At Pearson, the learner is at the heart of everything we do. We are very aware that to help and encourage learners to achieve, we have to first support their teachers.

Teachers are very unique customers. Working with and supporting teachers can be very difficult due to the constant demands on their time, their many fields of expertise, and the fact that their job impacts on the lives of so many learners.

I was a teacher for many years and during that time I always found the process of working with exam boards very frustrating. They were seen as authoritarian and anonymous. Often contacting an exam board involved emailing a generic mailbox and waiting weeks for a response. Or calling a London number and imagining a single phone ringing in an empty room while you hoped for an answer.

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I joined Teaching Services at Pearson with a plan to change this dynamic. I wanted to iron out all the difficulties I had encountered when I was a teacher and encourage a new approach of providing teachers with expert guidance and support.
Today we have an established team of former educators and subject experts who can support teachers with confidence, on a wide range of subjects and qualifications. Teachers can interact with us on their terms, with phone, email and social media channels available to them at all times. We are proactive in our efforts, providing teachers with answers before they have asked the question. A variety of specific outgoing communication through specialist channels including social media has helped us to build communities where our customers can talk to us and support each other.

I am very proud of the work we do in Teaching Services, we have built a team that supports teachers in the UK and around the world and helps them to get the most from our qualifications and products to create opportunities for their learners. When I heard about our nomination, I was pleased that I would have the chance to highlight the hard work we do as a team and also the difference we have made to our customers.

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I began a two month long process of collecting evidence and customer testimony. Identifying the areas where we have been most successful and deciding how to highlight this to the panel. Also recognising the areas where we still need to improve, to show that we have ambition to grow and achieve.

My presentation certainly didn’t write itself. Instead it needed the support and input of our very dedicated team to help me best explain our industry, our very unique customer and our different approaches. I went to the Grand Connaught Rooms with a presentation that was informative and interesting, and idea in my head about how to best tell our story and a big bag of nerves.

On the morning of the presentation I was sporting what I thought was a very dapper beard but my manager insisted it came off to try impress the judges. I thought this was a tad extreme, but had we been unsuccessful I didn’t want my facial hair to get the blame, so I complied. The Grand Connaught Rooms is vast and warren like but every nook and cranny was filled with nominees practising speeches and finalising presentations. I found a corner, made some last minute changes in my head and waited my turn. As it turned out I had nothing to worry about, the panel were friendly and supportive and their time keeping was precise!

Waiting for the announcement of my category took an age but gave me an opportunity to appreciate the vast amount of work that businesses put into satisfying their customers. When my name was called I was very surprised and a little more emotional than I let on. Winning an award was just a perfect end to an experience I found very satisfying and it was great to have the opportunity to share success and recognition with a fantastic team of friends and colleagues.

The teaching services team at Pearson is proud and ambitious. We are aware that the work we do has the learner at heart and the effort and dedication we exhibit can make a difference. Thank you very much to the team at UK Customer Experience Awards for giving us the opportunity to tell you just a little bit of our story.

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