The UK Customer Experience Awards took place yesterday at a very large, very new hotel by Heathrow Terminal 5. So large and new is the Sofitel that some of the staff were struggling to offer directions. Heather Small was the celebrity in attendance and spoke passionately about her work with Barnado’s, the children’s charity she has supported for the past two years.
I was judging the utilities category and by all accounts got lucky, as my fellow judges in other categories had not enjoyed the high quality and interesting submissions I reviewed. The winner in this category was Ovo, an energy supplier that only has 40,000 customers, but this far exceeded their target of 8,000 and although they were honest enough to admit that competitive pricing had played it’s part, it was easy to see why customers would flock to this brand.
Ovo’s business is built upon a principle of being trusted by customers, something the founder believed was missing in the industry. It was interesting listening to the special investigations unit at EON talking about the issues the industry faces that are not of the current owners making. I hadn’t realised that before privatisation, different regions installed different meters. This meant that only one company would have engineers familiar with a specific meter and so now that we can choose our energy provider, it is possible that they do not have the skills to support the equipment in our homes and businesses. buying skills in from a competitor is not a recipe for good customer experience.
In spite of the difficulties in the industry, what set Ovo apart was that customer centricity drives the entire business. They are not about one department, with exceptional individuals delivering a great service, they are about customer insight driven decision making and empowered employees from top to bottom. This distinction is what separated the category I judged, and came through throughout the day.
The UK Customer Experience Awards are only two years old and are trying to establish a wider picture than just customer service awards. However, the room was dominated by customer service people, so much so that even our host, Don Hales had to correct himself after uttering “service” after “customer” instead of experience. But the motivation is right and if organisations Can be encouraged to consider how service supports the experience customers have then the transition period is worthwhile.