I recently spent a day at Wembley Stadium. I wasn’t there for a sporting event, but because I had been invited to judge at the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards, and my office for the day was a corporate hospitality box with a spectacular view of the legendary pitch.

This was my first experience of judging at the awards. I had already been impressed by the standard presented in the written entries, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the atmosphere of excitement that pervaded the registration and networking areas as the teams of finalists arrived and made final tweaks to their presentations.

The category I was judging was Best Customer-Centric Culture – Customer First. The finalists ranged from very small businesses all the way through to large corporations, and it was clear from the written submissions that they had overcome some significant challenges on their journey to becoming more customer focused. Having devoted my career – both as an executive and consultant – to driving greater customer centricity, it was a delight to be able to delve into an array of different approaches from these businesses.

The judging criteria are extensive and extremely thorough, and it was clear from the outset that my fellow judges were as keen as I was to explore the tangible evidence backing up the claims being made by finalists.

One category that we were asked to evaluate was ‘innovation’. When I scored the written entries, I was initially looking for evidence of a customer-obsessed approach that was truly different to anything I had seen before. Having listened to all the finalists’ presentations, I was persuaded that true breakthrough in this category is when an organisation succeeds in getting a ‘customer first’ mentality embedded consistently at all levels.

Key to success is having senior leaders that role-model the approach and behaviours. It was great to see that demonstrated throughout the day with some excellent examples of leaders who are attuned to both customer and employee feedback, constantly identifying ways in which the Customer Experience can be improved.

For me, the real innovation was demonstrated when colleagues at all levels displayed how they were not only motivated to improve the Customer Experience, but also felt truly empowered by their organisations to make a difference for their customers.

To achieve that shift in mentality and behaviours across an entire organisation, of whatever size, in a way that delivers continuous CX improvement day after day – that is the breakthrough innovation that deserves to be celebrated and applauded.

It was a huge pleasure to be involved in a process that did just that, and it was great to see organisations of such different sizes showcase how they have delivered significant improvements in the experience for their customers, resulting in tangible business outcomes.

My conclusion? Developing a customer-centric culture does not necessarily come with a big price-tag. However, it does require tuning in as an organisation to what your customers and your employees are saying and showing a desire and ability to act on that feedback. When that is demonstrated consistently at all levels is when real customer centricity magic happens.

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