I have often written about the fact I feel truly blessed to be able to practice my vocation on a daily basis. I am afforded the opportunity to see and experience so many different things, in so many different places. Whilst it is exhausting, I will never take for granted the opportunity this gives me to continually develop my specialism and to use my experiences to share knowledge with others.

A day of the year I look forward to more than most (alongside Global Customer Experience Day that is!!), is the annual staging of the UK Customer Experience Awards. The longest running awards programme for Customer Experience (CX) in the world, I have been involved in the celebration of CX achievement since 2010 – as a finalist, winner and judge. This year was extra special for me personally – even though I see my role as a judge as a huge honour, in 2018, I was asked to take my role a step further as Chairman of the awards. To describe this as an honour is an understatement. To be able to represent my fellow CX professionals proved to be one of the most humbling moments of my career to date.

Every year I am privileged to listen and learn from professionals across multiple industries. Most years I am blown away by the progress that individuals and organisations are making. Just being able to share in the collective passion; living and breathing the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into often monumental transformation; is something that is difficult to put a price on. This year, over 900 people attended the awards ceremony – the largest gathering at a CX event in Europe – perhaps the world. Customer Experience as a profession continues to evolve at pace – and the UK Customer Experience Awards is evidence of that.

As a result, I feel, that even in my role as a judge, I am a ‘winner’ every single year I participate in the awards. I consider myself a ‘winner’ because:

  1. I always learn something that helps me become a better CX professional
  2. I meet new CX professionals
  3. My passion for CX is given an amazing boost
  4. I am reminded that our community of CX professionals continues to grow and thrive
  5. I see that the focus on CX continues to grow incrementally

However, whilst I always consider myself a ‘winner’, that does not mean I am never disappointed by the awards experience. Disappointment and an awards programme actually go ‘hand in hand’. As an entrant to an awards programme, everyone knows that only one person or team will walk away with the ultimate prize – the gold award. Not winning the gold award can feel like failure. However, for many, not winning the gold award spurs them on to strive for even better things next time around.

Last year – the 2017 version of the awards, as a judge, I did not feel like a winner. I was not as impressed with the entries I had the honour of judging as I have been in previous years. I was not as inspired and motivated as I hoped to be. I felt as though the CX profession had taken a step back. Whilst this did not feel like ‘failure’ as such, it led me to consider whether or not the CX profession had stalled. As 2018 proved, the evolution of CX has definitely not stalled – but it has reached a critical point. Many organisations have been focusing on adopting an approach to customer experience for as long as fifteen years. Yet still, as consumers in our own right, we continue to have so many experiences on a regular basis that fail to meet our needs and expectations. As a result, the need to continually LEARN and improve is ever more important.

And that is a very important lesson to everyone who participated in the awards this year. Some will feel as though they won. Some may feel as they did not win. BUT – everyone who participated, whether as a finalist, winner, or judge, needs to assess what they learned – to make themselves and their organisations better able to apply a focus on customer experience in the future.

The ‘best’ judging panel at the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards!! From left to right, me, Gary Jackson, Marie Cross, Donna O’Toole and Jo-Hill-Wilson

This year, my biggest ‘win’ was to have the pleasure to sit alongside some truly amazing peers. I know all judging panels are likely to argue the same, but if there was an award given to the BEST judging panel, it would surely have been given to us 🙂 Fun, inspiring, enjoyable, rewarding – I could continue with the superlatives. Keeping us in control was Gary Jackson – no mean feat considering the fact that two of the panel were particularly challenging!! Not only did Gary have to deal with me, he also had the challenge of managing the brilliant Donna O’Toole – not just brilliant because of her knowledge of the world of customer experience, but because her organisation helps business to WIN awards!

Donna and I share many perspectives on the way organisations participate in awards programmes. Her passion is in helping those who enter to maximise the opportunity. Entering awards is a skill in itself – Donna and her team are the ultimate specialists in applying those skills. So as well as reading about my thoughts on the 2018 awards, I am delighted to be able to share the thoughts of Donna as well….

Last week saw the finalists of the UK Customer Experience Awards arrive at Wembley Stadium to pitch their hearts out in the hope of taking home a coveted CX award.

For many, their efforts were justly rewarded. But for some, the day became worth far more than just the award itself. It became the opportunity to learn.

Some people learnt that successfully pitching to a panel of judges takes weeks of planning, preparation, and practice.

Some people learnt that timing is everything.

Some people learnt that what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.

Some people learnt that us judges are not as scary as they may have anticipated, and grew in confidence right in front of our eyes.

And some people simply learnt that knowledge is power, and I hope they will be back next year to try again, more powerful than ever.

I am privileged to have judged the CXAs and many other awards for years, and I was delighted to see some of my clients and contacts be crowned winners. But for me every awards event brings something new to learn too.

This year I learnt about a new trend in CX lingo (are we really now all ‘customer obsessed’?). A new service that’s rocking the CX world (have you measured the impact of your body language recently?). And the new job title to aspire to this year (could you be the next ‘Customer Delight/Success/Obsession’ Manager?).

My fellow judges and I also learnt that it’s extremely hard to choose between some of the most exceptional and high impact CX projects currently in operation in the UK and beyond – and we were thankful for the robust, independent scoring method that ultimately determined the winner and runners-up of our category.

But more importantly than anything, we learnt that humility and confidence is a rare but extremely powerful combination. That determination and resilience is what undoubtedly creates future success. And that creating a truly outstanding customer experience, really does come from the heart.

On behalf of Donna, myself and my fellow judges, CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who played a part in the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards. If you walked away with an award or not, as long as you learned something from the experience, you are as much a winner as anyone else!


If you want to learn more about Donna and the work she does to help companies enter and win awards, please have a look here. 


My book, ‘Customer What? – the honest and practical guide to customer experience’ – is now available to purchase! You can do so on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. If Amazon does not ship to your part of the world, please complete the form found here and I will arrange an alternative method to ship a book to you. Enjoy the read!!