I was honoured to be a judge at the UK Complaint Handling Awards, and grateful that my employer Capita allows me the time to develop these extra-curricular activities outside of my role. As I am desperately passionate about customer experience, I was excited to see what the day ahead of me would be: a day focussed on improving the complaints procedures within companies, and examples of them going from being at their worst to becoming their best.
It was also encouraging to see businesses recognise the need for roles such as Customer Experience Managers, and putting in place teams dedicated to resolving customer complaints.
My background is within the contact centre space, using technology as an enabler to deliver great customer service and seamless journeys for the customer, so, naturally this proved to be a fascinating day.
I take my role as a judge exceptionally seriously, and take the time out of my working day dedicated to the judging process, half of which is completed online. The entries in my category this year were exceptional; and I applaud all the entrants for their efforts.
Contact Centres on the Frontline
Something we all have in common, whether we are a judge or an entrant, is that we all have customers – whether they are partners, colleagues, patients, or indeed regulators.
I have always believed that the heart of any business, the pulse of its existence is within the contact centre, where customers have their first experience of dealing with your business.
It’s not very British to complain. How many of us have been to a restaurant, had a terrible meal, and smiled politely when we have been disappointed? Why is it that we don’t complain? Is it because we think we may not be heard? Or worse still that we complain but nothing is done about it?
So what key take-aways did I get from the awards ceremony? I learned that companies are trying to change, and they are starting to listen to their customers. I learned that the successful winners on the day had a strategy which included and incorporated their CEOs, and it was a discussion point on their agendas each month.
I also learned that we are all ambassadors of who pays our bills. Be passionate, be committed, be positive, embrace change, and continue to keep the customer at the heart of what you do. I have always loved this quote from Gandhi:
‘A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.’
Being Human is All It Takes
I also learned that companies are going out of their way to make things right for customers, with good will gestures on complaints handling, and policies to identify vulnerable customers. I heard a story that one lady was returning back to work from maternity leave, she was on the phone talking to her bank and the baby was crying in the background, she seemed flustered understandably as she was trying to arrange some final administration with her bank before work. The next day a bunch of flowers arrived from her bank saying: ‘We hope you had a good first day at work.’ Exceptional.
I always remember an old boss of mine sharing one of his favourite quotes, by Maya Angelou:
‘I have learned that people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
The lady in question felt good, valued, and in turn a loyal customer was created.
Everyone Loves a Good Story
Good news spreads like wildfire, we all like repeating heart-warming stories, or examples of good customer experience.
Finally, thanks to all the winners on the day, you should all be applauded. Thank you to all the entrants who continue to demonstrate that the Voice of the customer is finally being heard, and that they are keeping customers at the heart of what they do.