Organisations committed to service excellence tend to share a number of common traits. Achievement is visibly celebrated; the people are enthused about their work and know what is expected of them; there is a willingness to learn from others (even competitors); and the organisation has a clear understanding of who its customers are and what they want.
The systems and processes that deliver exceptional service may be largely hidden from customers, but it is their experience of the organisation that counts in the end.
'Service excellence is the ultimate differentiator in the marketplace. If you have a great product offering, you have an advantage, but if you can wrap it in a package where the customer truly has a positive experience, that is the key,' says Brian Hadfield, managing director of Unisys.
Unisys' sponsorship of these awards was born out of a desire to deliver the best service in its own field. According to Hadfield, the company's approach has three main elements: listening to customers, directing them towards fresh ideas, and making the fullest use of the employees who understand customers the best.
To those who embark on the road towards service excellence, customer satisfaction is just a starting point, says Hadfield. 'Loyalty comes from building relationships, gaining trust and providing positive experiences, and that in turn leads naturally to advocacy, when your customers want to tell others about you.'
And the value of the Unisys/Management Today Service Excellence awards, he believes, is two-fold. 'Regardless of how well you do, you will undergo a dispassionate, disinterested company health-check - you will have looked at yourself in the mirror. And if you do succeed, you know that you've benchmarked against some of the best in the country.'