For the past four years, the Gulf Customer Experience Awards have sought to reward the companies in the region that deliver outstanding customer experiences.

This year, I had the opportunity to be on the judging panel for the awards, and it underlined for me how a combination of “getting the basics right” and innovation can take Customer Experience to the next level. 

Unlike many awards shows, judging for the GCXAs takes place on the day, with finalists presenting in rooms that are open to the public. This helps create an environment where participants and the public alike can learn from each other.

With finalists scored on both the strength of their written entries and on-the-day presentations, we had to be thorough as judges. 

Here is what I learned from my experience:

  1. As a judge, preparation is key: As well as going through the written entries again prior to each finalist’s presentation, a good judge will do background research on the company, adding to the understanding of what got them to the finalist stage. 
  2. The GCXAs is a very transparent, thorough and fair process: Every part of the event was extremely well prepared, which is quite unique in the region. During the presentation, we had a set matrix that we scored the finalists on, making the process as transparent and fair as possible. 
  3. A great place to learn and exchange ideas: With each finalist given just 15 minutes to present, they had to be really clear about what sets them apart in their particular category. I really enjoyed this approach, and especially the discussions after the presentation, which is where we as judges had to focus on the substance of the presentation, as that’s where evidence of great CX lies. 
  4. High quality of professionals and feedback: Both finalists and judges showed a high level of professionalism and experience in their field. Also, all finalists received benchmarked feedback reports to help enable continuous improvement, showing their performance against other finalists, including winners. It means that companies don’t just get a chance to showcase themselves during the awards, but also to use them as a learning experience. It’s something that a lot of other awards showcases could learn from, especially if they’re really committed to promoting improvement in their sectors. 
  5. Growing interest in Customer Experience in the region: It’s clear that companies across the region are paying ever more attention to Customer Experience. Every company at the awards was serious about putting the customer at the core of what they do. They also understand that design is not only about ensuring that everything looks nice, but that it covers the whole product life cycle.
  6. Still room for improvement for novel ideas: If there’s one criticism I have, it’s with the nature of the presentations. While they were very good and compelling, most were still too corporate and short on unique and novel ideas. This could be the reflection of the maturity of the region.
  7. More focus on the Customer: One thing that those who missed out could learn from the award winners is how to bring more customer feedback into their presentations. This is the most powerful way to demonstrate that they actually put the customer at the centre of what they do.

That said, one of the great things about being a judge at an event like this is seeing the growing level of talent and innovation in the Gulf region. It gives us great, locally relevant case studies on innovation in Customer Experience and measuring success that we can use with our clients.

While there’s always room for improvement in the industry, the Gulf Customer Experience Awards delivers in spades. 

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