But what do these awards really signify and why do they matter? If you ask organisations why they participate, they usually come up with the same answer: to find out how well they are doing. As Alwyn Welch, managing director of Unisys, puts it: 'The Service Excellence Awards provide a focal point, an ambition for companies to strive to achieve.
It is an opportunity for benchmarking against other organisations in other fields, so it helps people achieve the level of service they really aspire to reach.'
There's a tendency to regard outstanding customer service as a 'nice to have' rather than a core asset. But for many of the companies that have won these awards, it is the significant element that can distinguish them from their competitors. Says Welch: 'Clients, whether internal or external, are becoming more and more demanding, and expectations are rising inexorably. Competition and commoditisation demand all the differentiation an organisation can get.'
There are many different models for delivering excellent service in many businesses. Some are focused on technology, others on face-to-face contact. For some organisations, superb service means building faultless processes, while for others it is an intuitive concept. But a number of characteristics are readily recognisable in all the organisations that have won these awards. They include a culture that encourages constant learning and improvement; engaging staff fully so that they want to do their best for customers and contribute to the development of the organisation; and leadership that sets an example rather than seeking to command and control.
But one X-factor marks out true service excellence. In the words of Welch: 'Passion for service, top to bottom and bottom to top.' That is one commodity that Rackspace, our overall winner this year, has in spades. Congratulations to them, and to all the other winners and shortlisted companies.