Customer Experience Awards 2020 – Celebrating Success During a Pandemic

16/11/2020By Rob Dermott
October 2020 saw the 11th Annual UK Customer Experience Awards take place – and the first to be held through a global pandemic.
Customer experience awards 2020
Recognising and celebrating excellence in Customer Experience is as important as ever. The Coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected the lives and livelihood of people and businesses across the globe, and it will likely have a lasting impact on customer experience expectations.

Although this year was very different, the objective was the same – to celebrate all aspects of Customer Experience in the UK. The initial written entries were submitted as normal for judges to review, however as with most events this year, the presentation and awards ceremony were held online via Zoom.

2020 has been unique in many ways. Awards events in particular would be very different, as I found out when I was asked to be the Chair of Judges for the Contact Centre category at the 2020 CX Awards. This is the sixth year I’ve judged for the event, and my second judging a category.  For the last few years, the home of the CX Awards has been Wembley Stadium in London. It’s a full day event, with  close to 1,000 people taking part in either their respective categories or as judges.  The event is real opportunity to network, present and share best practice in what might now seem the old-fashioned way – face to face.

So how do you run a live Awards event online and ensure that all feel engaged?

The set up on the day was excellent. Support ‘transported’ the participants of the category from a virtual waiting room into the presentation room at the allotted time.  On arrival, they were greeted by the judging panel which included respected CX professionals – names from the likes of Samsung, Medallia, Utracomms and Capital One.

What drew these professionals to judge at this year’s awards? Fellow judge Adrian Beech – Head of UK and Partner Operations at Capital One said:

“Having presented at the awards numerous times this was my first-time judging, the ability to see Customer experience being at the heart of so many businesses was brilliant to see. Judging also provided the opportunity to network with industry colleagues who you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to work with. A great experience all round”.

Sharif-Paul Anton, General Manager – Customer Support at Customer Experience Samsung Electronics UK added:

“It was a pleasure to participate as a judge once more at this year’s UK CX Awards.  The team at Awards International did a grand job of turning the activities and event to be virtual in current circumstances.  As always, it was a pleasure to hear some great stories from the finalists around how they have delivered amazing customer experiences through their presentations and through them sharing best practises.  Congratulations again to all the finalists and presenters!”.

The category was hotly contested and included entries from So Energy, Ageas UK, Financial Services Compensation Scheme and SGN.  All have great reputations for delivering outstanding Customer Experience, in fact, Ageas UK was the winner at the 2019 CX Awards. (Click here to read my interview with them after their win last year)

After a full day of judging, the online awards commenced to which I decided to wear my Tuxedo whilst sitting at my dining room table. 2020 holds no surprises for me anymore!

Customer experience awards online

SGN – Best Contact Centre CX

The winner of the Best Contact Centre CX category this year was SGN.  On the night they also took two runners up positions, demonstrating that the business is a true champion of customer experience.

So how did they do it?

SGN manages the network that delivers gas to 5.9 million homes and business in the south of England and across Scotland. They have held the UK’s No.1 Gas Distribution Network Customer Satisfaction position for the 4th year running and ensure that great Customer Experience is delivered across all channels by their 3,865 employees.

Their entry was the CXC – The Heart of Our Business Success

SGN’s commitment to delivering great customer service is one of their five values and one of three strategic drivers for their overall business success.  Understanding their customers and meeting their needs has been fundamental in achieving and maintaining their goal of being the regulators – Ofgem’s no.1 Network for Customer Service.  It’s required profound behavioural change, driven by Maureen McIntosh, Head of Customer Experience and her team of 55, split across two geographical locations.  They have been the beating heart of their customer and business success over the past five years, and although small this CXC has significant responsibilities:

  • Communicating with 14 million customers as well as stakeholders, communities, authorities and the general public.
  • The CXC team handled 206,104 direct customer contacts in 2019.
  • All standards of performance and CX levels over a wider team of almost 4,000 SGN employees and 2,000 contractors.
  • Delivering the CX strategy written by Maureen and the extended Exec leadership team (CEO, Directors, Head of HR and Head of Employee Engagement) that drives change in the business. Achieving circa £5 million of the regulator Ofgem’s incentive scheme (RIIO) rewards per annum.
  • Delivering timely and effective emergency response during major incidents.

The judges view on this entry was that it really demonstrated all-round Customer Experience & Employee Engagement not only from embedding excellence in the Customer Experience Centre, but also flowed through the engagement of employees at all points of the customer journey.  As SGN has a large field force of engineers at the front line this was often the only point where people saw an SGN employee. The whole customer journey was focussed around getting the right customer outcomes and continuing to improve the experience along the way.

The whole customer journey was focussed around getting the right customer outcomes and continuing to improve the experience along the way.

Following their win, I spoke with Maureen McIntosh – Head of Customer Experience, Ben Tarrant-Lewis – Customer Service Manager and Deborah Cane – Customer Experience Manager, to find out more about their success in driving Customer Experience both internally and externally.

What really came across from the interview was the passion for delivering extraordinary customer experience came from within and was core to all actions that the CXC provided to a diverse customer base. There really was a commitment for getting things right for customers whilst delivering business objectives and benefits.

 

Why did SGN decided to enter the UKCX Awards?

Maureen: It’s important for our people to be recognised for the hard work that they do.  It’s a real accolade for all they do. We are number one for customer satisfaction in our market as recognised by Ofgem, but to be recognised amongst our peers who are not just utilities, but all other organisations is fantastic for us and our employees…It’s also great to see what other companies are doing and to understand are we as great as we think we are?

 What did the business do that had such a positive outcome on Customer Experience?

Deborah: Engagement was the big piece. Everything we tried to do to improve customer satisfaction was a joint decision, whether this was input from the depots, the engineers or the contact centre staff to say this is what our customers are telling us and where they need support…or these are the areas that we are doing really well and what learning can we take from it.  This was rather than it coming down from on high that this is ‘what you must do’, it was engagement at every level.

Everything we tried to do to improve customer satisfaction was a joint decision, whether this was input from the depots, the engineers or the contact centre staff

There are strong relationships with the CEO, the directors and all areas within.  Everybody has been part of this journey with us, everybody has fed into the process, so the processes have come out in such a way that everyone is bought into customer experience and everyone believes it.

Ben: We tried to put across (in our entry) that we are at the heart of the business and that we work with all other areas whether dealing with engineers or our customers, and our advisors are empowered to have difficult conversations with internal teams to get the right outcomes for customers.

On our last presentation slide we picked out the good / great from employee engagement scores – that even through a difficult time bring home that the team are absolutely dedicated to getting it right for our customers.

What part of the CX transformation programme are you most proud of?

Maureen: It’s the way we went about it and we stepped right back and agreed with the CEO, that absolutely we wanted to be number one. It was the involvement of everyone in the business, whether it was our CX team putting the message out there about great Customer Service to pulling everyone to work with us in the business from IT, Operations, Comms or HR – everyone got really excited about what we could do.

Between us we came up with around 56 initiatives that would help us form a customer expectation, but also a business expectation, about how we can add value. This all led back to how do we maintain that 10/10 level of service we commit to. We went to the board with that strategy and what we wanted to do and how much we could achieve…that back up from the board meant we could begin to deliver the changes in an agile manner.

 

So how are they going to top this moving forward?

The team spoke about thinking about the customer journey and what really matters, and all teams will work with.  Where do we still need to get better?  Whether focus sessions or external research the areas that they will continue to review are communication, timescales and ways of working.  Something that all organisations need to review when focusing on Customer Experience.  SGN will continually review, implement and embed, bringing the team with them. As expected, the awards secured on the night were well received by the team, the businesses, senior leaders and quite rightly SGN were quick to let Ofgem know.

SGN really demonstrated Customer Experience at the heart of everything they do and to be a winner, employees must be engaged to deliver excellence. Their entry really demonstrated this and why they were the ultimate category winner. Well done SGN.

For more information about SGN and awards they have won: https://www.sgn.co.uk/about-us/awards

The awards are an outstanding opportunity to celebrate Customer Experience even during testing times – and this was just one award winner amongst many on the day.  As with all who take part, delivering outstanding customer experience throughout the year is core to how these businesses operate, retain customers and deliver great customer outcomes.  Well done to all and good luck for the year ahead.

For more information about the UK Customer Experience Awards 2020 and winners, visit:  https://cxa.co.uk/winners-and-finalists-2020

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About the author

Rob Dermott

Director – Customer Contact

Rob is Director of psd‘s Customer Contact practice, specialising in the Retail, FM & Support Services, Healthcare, BPO, and Utilities sectors.