Following the success of the 1996 Awards, Management Today, in association with Unisys, is on the quest to recognise, promote and reward best service practices in 1997.
Excellent customer care is a commercial must for the next millennium.
So says Birmingham Midshires Building Society, winners of the 1996 Management Today/Unisys Service Excellence Awards. Birmingham Midshires beat more than 150 UK organisations for the title of Britain's most customer-focused organisation. Winning the title, says corporate relations chief Tony McGarahan, marks the company's customer care achievements but also points the way ahead: 'Excellent customer service is going to be one of the primary strategies that world-class companies must have in place by the end of the decade'.
In 1997, Management Today, in association with Unisys, is renewing the quest to promote and reward best service practices wherever they are found in the UK. 'Today customer service is recognised as a powerful source of competitive advantage,' says Christine Carroll, Unisys's director of external marketing (Information Services Group Europe). Unisys competes on a worldwide basis to provide information services, technology and solutions to business and government.
The judging criteria for the 1997 Awards derive from research which Unisys has carried out among more than 100 organisations worldwide, recognised for their superb quality of customer service. Based on that research, judges will look for the following among entrants: evidence of a proven process for capturing feedback from customers on their needs and expectations, together with a clear link from the collection of data to action; proof of customer satisfaction; demonstration of the involvement of the customer in the design of products and processes where appropriate; an understanding of the activities of competitors; a clear policy, and supporting actions, to ensure people have the right skills, knowledge and behaviours to carry out their work; a positive atmosphere in the workplace; and demonstrable leadership and the building of shared purpose and values.
Participants will be assessed according to four broad criteria of excellent service provision. These are: understanding customers; operational excellence; engaging employee enthusiasm for customer care; and leadership, vision and values. Judging is in three stages. First, entrants complete a confidential questionnaire which assesses their performance against the criteria noted above. This information remains confidential. All entrants, however, will benefit from a confidential, tailored report which benchmarks their company's performance against other entrants and that of the 100-plus organisations included in Unisys's worldwide database. This benchmarking document will also identify the steps which should be taken to achieve world-class levels of customer satisfaction and retention.
Between April and May, those best performing organisations, as identified by the questionnaire, will be invited to take part in the next stage of judging - a visit by a team of judges from Management Today, Unisys and representatives from this year's award-winning organisations. A short list of finalists will appear in the July 1997 issue of Management Today.
Finally, winners will be selected and announced at an award ceremony at the House of Commons in September.
Entry is free and open to any UK-based company, plant, institution or organisational operating unit which provides service to internal or external customers or both. The awards, which are open to both UK and foreign-owned companies, are divided into five industry categories with further awards for the best small company (turnover of £25 million or less). Entrants to the 1996 Awards will also be eligible for a new category award - that of most improved company. The overall winner will receive the Best Service Excellence Company of the Year 1997 Award. All finalists will be featured in Management Today. To obtain an entry form, see box (left).
1997 SERVICE EXCELLENCE AWARDS
- Best Service Excellence
Company of the Year 1997
- Best Small Company
- Most Improved Company
Best Service Excellence Company in:
- Business-to-business services, including distributive trades
- Consumer services, including retailing
- Financial services
- Manufacturing/engineering,including construction and extractive industries
- Public services/utilities, including government and education
TIMETABLE AND PROCEDURE
December 1996 - February 1997
Entrants complete and return a confidential service excellence questionnaire (for an entry form see reply-paid card contained in this issue or contact Anthony Locke at Unisys Customer Service Centre on 01908 212613). The closing date for the return of forms is 14 March 1997.
April - May 1997
Site visits to short-listed companies by a team of judges from Management Today and Unisys.
Publication of finalists in the July issue of Management Today.
May - July 1997
Preparation and distribution of Service Excellence Report which benchmarks entrants' service practices against each other and against those of the world's leading service organisations.
Winners announced at Service Excellence Award reception in the House of Commons.