The month of September comes around every year. The kids go back to school. Millions go back to work after the summer holiday. Autumn starts to knock on the door. Christmas decorations are prominently displayed in stores all across the land. September is a month that signals change – some embrace it, while others despair at the fact that they may not get another day off until Father Christmas has paid a visit!
However, for one group of Professionals in the UK, September now offers a completely different and more exciting prospect. September is the month where Customer Experience in the UK is celebrated – and celebrated in style. On Friday 25th September 2015, hundreds of passionate Professionals who excel in demonstrating the power of Customer Experience, convened in London for the UK Customer Experience Awards.
Having been involved since 2010, I have seen the annual ‘festival’ of Customer Experience grow from strength to strength. As a finalist, winner, proud boss and judge, I have experienced every emotion that the awards throws at you. There are times when the experience is similar to sitting an exam – nerve-wracking; sweat inducing; painful!! There are times when it is the best feeling in the world – not quite as rewarding as becoming a proud parent….. but close! There are times when you have to laugh at the comedy of it all – you will never see so many people ‘pacing’ as you will at the UK Customer Experience Awards! If you do get a minute just to ‘take it all in’, the feeling I get most often is one of immense pride and satisfaction – that the Profession I feel so passionate about is growing every single year.
The 2015 UK Customer Experience Awards was a HUGE event. Every year, the producers of the event, Awards International, have to try to find a bigger and better location to host the ceremony. As I said in 2014, it will not be long before they have to book Wembley Stadium to hold the hundreds and thousands of professionals who want to recognise the efforts of individuals, teams and companies in delivering better Customer Experiences.
I found myself extremely fortunate and humbled to be judging the category that means most to me – the UK Customer Experience Professional of the Year. Seeing the Profession develop each year is one of the greatest satisfactions in my ever developing career – to have the chance to hear a crop of highly driven Customer Experience Professionals share the amazing things they have done to transform their organisations is quite simple an amazing honour.
Every year I am amazed at the sheer talent, drive and excellence of the people who have made it to the finals. This year did not disappoint. In 2015, the finalists were quite simply incredible. In fact, two of the finalists were so incredible, this year saw them both crowned UK Customer Experience Professional of the Year. I must tell you a little bit about them.
Manuela and Diana are two incredible ladies. Working in vastly different environments, they have both been instrumental in changing the way their respective organisations think about their relationship with Customers. Manuela is the epitome of a Customer Experience Leader. Working in a business and industry that is notoriously challenging when it comes to building long term, trustworthy customer relationships, she has ensured that her business delivers ‘insurance that simply works’! Manuela believes that if you give customers ‘your word’ then you better be good at keeping it – and her fiery Italian powered passion has enabled her business to do just that. Manuela used the analogy of Italian cooking to describe her approach to influencing her business to become more customer centric:
In Italian cooking we use parsley on everything – that is why I’m like parsley – I get everywhere all the time!
The positive effect Manuela’s approach to Customer Experience has had on her business is remarkable. Improved customer perception and commercial performance almost off the scale. They have made life significantly easier for customers and employees. If you are looking for a great case study of Customer Experience in financial services, look no further than Direct Line.
I did not think it would be possible to match Manuela – for her passion and for her achievements. I was to be proven wrong. When Diana Rodriguez entered the judging room, I was not prepared for what was about to happen. To be frank, Diana quite simply WOWED the judging panel. With great humility and authenticity, Diana quietly described her story. Arriving in the UK from Columbia only four years ago, the lady who was presenting to a group of judges for a national award could not even speak English when she landed on these shores.
Diana’s company, recruitment consultancy Nicoll Curtin, saw enough potential in Diana to give her a big break back in 2011. What happened next was quite incredible. Working in a traditional recruiting business, Diana set about changing attitudes and behaviours towards customers and contractors. Studying English and a business degree at the same time did not stop her in helping her company become a shining example of customer centric behaviour. Like Manuela, not only did Diana’s actions have a dramatic effect on customer perception, they also had a significant effect on revenue for her business.
Diana is a wonderful example of what can be achieved by any Customer Experience Professional anywhere in the world. She believed in doing the right thing – and she just got on and did it. Diana did not have a budget for Customer Experience. Diana was not given permission to do Customer Experience. Diana just knew that transforming the way her company behaved was the right thing to do. Much of what she presented just bowled me over – not what she did, but HOW she went about doing it. Diana introduced customer feedback mechanisms; customer journey mapping; employee engagement initiatives – and in almost all cases, she did so through self learning. That is right, Diana did much of what she did by ‘googling’ things!!
It is impossible for me to do either of these ladies justice in a short blog post – or even in my own words. Over the coming weeks I hope to publish posts with THEIR own words – describing their own journeys and what Customer Experience really means to them. They are a genuine inspiration – to me and to anyone else with an interest in Customer Experience.
You can find out who all of the lucky winners were here. A huge congratulations to all of the finalists – you continue to do amazing and wonderful things that contribute to the ever growing focus on Customer Experience. Keep doing the things you do – there is still a long way to go until consumers and customers can rely consistently on receiving great Customer Experiences!
If you are interested in being a judge and want to know more about the experience, do not hesitate to get in touch. Personally, it is one of the most rewarding things that I do every year – I cannot recommend the experience enough!