by Julie Tyler, Customer Insight Specialist for Central England Co-operative

When my boss first suggested to me that I should enter the Customer Experience Professional of the year at the UK Customer Experience Awards, I think I guffawed….then looked a bit shocked; firstly I have always erred on the side of keeping your light under a bushel and secondly, I couldn’t get images of me having to trot round a show ring out of my head.

As we started to explore the possibility though, the idea started to grow on me. The newly formed insight function was getting great word of mouth in the business, and in a discipline so focused on measurement and benchmarks, I had no external benchmark of the service we were building for our customers.

A key part of the vision of our business includes ‘to be the UK’s best…’ I wanted to build a best in class insight function despite the constraints of budget and scale. One way to measure just how good that provision was would be to enter the awards and let the service I provided be judged against the UK’s best – by some of the UK’s best.

It was also important that we increased the traction of professionalism in the customer and service sphere across and within organisations. In many organisations we are right to highly value professional credentials in specialist support areas such as HR and finance. As a Co-operative, the core of what we do is to serve the needs of our communities and members. The process of applying for and achieving the UK Customer Experience Professional of the year plays a part in us ensuring that we value equally highly skills in service. In an increasingly competitive and comparable market, service professionalism will be a high value currency and we need to prepare for this.

One of the benefits of completing an entry whether I had reached the final or not, was that it really made me think about what I do and how I add value to the organisation. The structured application and scoring system means that you have to prove evidence of your activity adding measurable benefit to both the organisation and the business. The process also made me think about the great teams and support that are in place in the business; a challenge in achieving a personal award is how you recognise all of the fantastic people that have enabled you to achieve. I think the success of the entry was due to the understanding of the internal customer as well as that of the external one, and of achieving a great deal utilising in house resources, which confirms and celebrates the capability and professionalism of internal teams.

Preparing to attend the final was great fun; support from the business was fantastic, in the customer experience team we prepared our two entries together. I think as a newly formed team, it was a very positive team experience to prepare, attend and celebrate the awards together.

Since winning the award I think my confidence has grown to continue to explore my personal and professional development. I have submitted articles to Customer Experience Magazine (CXM), become a Companion Member of the Institute of Customer Service and joined some Customer Experience Forums. With hindsight I think that entering the UK Customer Experience Awards is a great way to recognise your colleagues and teams and challenge yourself and of course to find out if you are one of the UK’s best.

The wider benefits though are to the visibility and credibility of a function which will become increasingly important in business in the future. Establishing customer experience and service as business crucial functions and recognising the amazing and innovative work that is going on in this sector from all of those who enter these awards.

Julie TylerJulie Tyler
An experienced retail professional, Julie Tyler has considerable experience in customer facing roles in the retail industry. Julie is currently the Customer Insight Specialist for Central England Co-operative. Julie delivers both market and customer insight for Central England Co-operative’s family of businesses which can be used to continually improve the customer’s experience.

Prior to this role, Julie has held positions in retail learning and development and HR, and more recently in Retail Operations where she was responsible for a range of food store sizes and formats.

Julie is currently the Customer Experience Professional of the Year , in association with the UK Customer Experience Awards.

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