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What Award Winning Organisations are Doing Right Now

19 Dec 2023

Lessons from judging the 2023 Australian Service Excellence Awards

By Jeremy Larkins, Executive Director, CSIA

For over twenty years the Australian Service Excellence Awards have given the opportunity for organisations to showcase the work they are doing in developing and delivering exceptional customer experience.


The 2023 Awards included a stellar line up of organisations and has been described as the strongest field of finalists in the Awards history. As a judge, I had the privilege of seeing nearly fifty finalist presentations this year and I contributed to the difficult decision making to determine winners in a range of categories.


Having had some time to reflect on this year’s program, I am sharing my thoughts on the key themes that set the winners apart this year.


Customer Centric Approach


Unsurprisingly, customer centricity was a common thread among the top performers. Beyond just delivering great service, these organisations stood out for their unwavering commitment to understanding the customer, enhancing experiences, and prioritising customer satisfaction in strategic decision-making. Frontline teams exhibited an impressive focus on delivering superior service, but what caught the most attention was the laser-like dedication to placing the customer at the core of all organisational development.


Leadership


Leadership emerged as a key differentiator, with CEOs and Board members actively shaping the organisational culture for service excellence. The impact of top-down leadership was evident in various instances, from setting customer-focused KPIs for executive leaders, to C-suite executives regularly engaging with service delivery functions in the field. The winning organisations demonstrated a transparent and consistent approach to customer-centric management, with senior executives playing a critical role in driving customer-focused initiatives.


Customer Focused Culture


Creating and maintaining a consistent customer-focused culture proved to be a winning formula. The standout organisations emphasised positive workplaces with examples of team collaboration, open communication, and inclusivity. There a was very clearly demonstrated link between a commitment to corporate social responsibility, sustainability and inclusion with positive organisational culture. Most importantly, staff were connected to the organisation and each other through a common customer service purpose.


Training and Development


Winning organisations put a spotlight on coaching, development, and growth opportunities for team members. These ranged from internal training hubs to coaching sessions; regular workshops to skills enhancement programs, but across the board these organisations aimed to elevate both technical and soft skills within their teams. There were clear career paths and career planning for individuals and demonstrated progression within business units or the broader organisation.


Agility


The ability to pivot and adapt, especially in the face of challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, data-breaches and natural disasters showcased a forward-thinking and adaptable approach. Successful crisis responses demonstrated a commitment to maintaining services during demanding times and keeping customers at the centre of business continuity and crisis management. Impressively, many organisations were able to leverage technology rapidly to automate, deflect and otherwise support customers during challenging episodes.


Continuous Improvement


A strong passion for problem-solving and process improvement was evident among winning organisations. These organisations embraced data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement, implementing quality assurance programs, feedback loops, and impact metric analysis to refine processes and enhance service delivery continually. The best examples were organisations wholly aligned to a single continuous improvement framework for all staff members.


Technology and Innovation


Winning organisations harnessed advanced technologies, including AI, automation, and bespoke software tools, to improve service delivery, reduce costs, and enhance customer interactions. The focus for these organisations was embracing cutting edge technologies where there was a tangible benefit for service delivery which enhanced customer experience.


Performance Monitoring


Performance monitoring and quality assurance was a cornerstone for the best organisations, with a focus on typical metrics such as customer satisfaction scores, call handling times, and process efficiency along with more complex monitoring using AI and other technology. Real-time monitoring, standardised performance metrics, and dedicated quality and training teams were integral components of their commitment to ensuring high-quality service.


Customer Driven Success


Organisations who were able to showcase a clear financial focus, emphasising cost control, attrition reduction, and improving organisational balance sheets, all stood out. Initiatives like budget management, automation, and efficiency improvements played a vital role in achieving financial efficiency for these award-winning organisations. Moreover, these organisations were able to show an evidence-based connection between customer service metrics and organisation performance.

These are the key themes that were observed judging our Awards finalists in 2023 and all organisations demonstrated these to a smaller or larger extent. Winning organisations were able to support these areas with evidence and in all cases delivered their presentations with an evident passion for both their customers and team members. 

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