My Customer Experience Awards adventure was chock-full of excitement and surprises from the get-go.Not least because it was a complete surprise to me that I’d even been entered!

I’ve spent the past three years as the Head of Customer Excellence for Growth Engineering, a multi-award winning learning technologies company. It’s a rewarding role within a rapidly growing organisation, and I build genuine relationships with every one of our customers.

Little did I know that my Managing Director, Juliette Denny, decided to put me up for the awards this year, in the coveted Professional of the Year category! I’m used to seeing our company win awards, but never imagined I’d see my name gracing a shortlist.

But there I was – one of just five entries chosen to make the finals. My humble side wanted to shrug it off, but I could barely contain myself! I’ve been sneaking references to my shortlisting into every conversation since.

That being said, I was also terrified. I spend all day talking with customers and I’m not the type to get nervous. Still, something about opening upto a judge’s panel made my palms clam-up and my knees shake.

I had to call in the cavalry.

I drafted in some of Growth Engineering’s finest minds to help create a presentation that summed up three years’ worth of achievements. They did a kick-ass job.

Though we have a relaxed dress code at Growth Engineering, a colleague and I got suited and booted for the big day. As we arrived at the swanky Park Plaza hotel, we were stunned by the effort put into the occasion.

No time for bewilderment though, as our interview was up first. As my heart-rate started to hit alarming levels, we bumped into Ian Golding, our category’s lead judge. He reassured me that there was nothing to worry about. In fact, he knew how I felt because he’d won the title in the past!

To tell the truth, I relied too heavily on cue cards during the presentation. But, oddly enough, I relaxed while being grilled during the questioning phase. Thinking on my feet and coming up with answers is what I’m used to!

After an agonising all-day wait, we took full advantage of the drinks reception and made our way to our table. The room’s set-up, décor and embellishments were breath-taking. Who needs the Oscars? The Customer Experience Awards are where it’s at!

Before any winners were announced, we were treated to fine dining. Terrine, rump of lamb, panna cotta… The food alone was worth the trip! (And let’s not forget the complimentary wine)

Then the announcements began. It was amazing to be in a room full of people sharing a passion for customer experience. Seeing everyone’s hard work rewarded was simply inspiring. It made me want to call our clients to tell them I love working with them. But maybe that was just the wine talking…

Then, finally, it was time – the Professional of the Year was ready to be announced!

In a shock twist, there were joint winners for this category! Tensions were high, the two names were announced, and… I wasn’t one of them.

Naturally, I was furious. I kicked over some chairs and stormed out. ‘I’mma let you finish, but Richard Culpin has provided some of the best customer experiences of all time. Of all time!’

Not really. I applauded manfully and did one of those awkward award-show grins (the kind that Leonardo DiCaprio has perfected at The Oscars). While I was disappointed, we knew the competition was extremely tough.

One of the judges we’d presented to happened to be sat on the next table. He came over to tell us we’d made an excellent entry and should be proud. It was a nice touch!

We couldn’t possibly remain upset. We’d had the grandest day out since Wallace and Gromit blasted off to the Moon looking for Wensleydale!

Though we headed back to Growth Engineering HQ empty handed, it was a pleasant surprise to receive feedback on our entry. When we looked at it, we were blown away by the level of detail!

For every judging criteria you get your score for your written entry and presentation, the average score of all finalists, how you ranked amongst them, and how far you were from first place. As if that wasn’t enough, you get judges’ comments for both the written entry and presentation!

Now I know exactly what to work on for next year. Also, the feedback revealed that I placed third overall. So,since there were joint winners, that technically makes me the runner-up! Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself…

How could I be disheartened? I work for a fantastic company and help other people kick-ass and achieve more. The tough moments are more than balanced by the ultra-rewarding nature of the job.

I feel like a hero every day. That’s reward enough for me (not to say I won’t re-enter the Customer Excellence Awards next year). Watch this space!

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