A common annoyance for customers and employees is that despite experiencing bad customer service and poor workplaces, awards are still won for customer and employee excellence by these organisations. Award-winning plaques adorn the walls, trophies sit in boardrooms, and accolades appear on marketing materials and email signatures.

What causes the disconnect between organisations winning awards but having unhappy customers and employees? The answer is down to the criteria for winning an award, which is based on adherence to outdated paradigms on work, organisation and leadership.

To illustrate: Let’s look at examples of criteria which organisations are conventionally advised to measure, and are judged against:

  • Practices for greeting, acknowledgement, creating good first impressions, interaction, helpfulness, and personable behaviour for each customer interaction
  • Metrics for first response times, handling durations, wait times, hold times, abandonment rates, reply times, number of interactions, and resolution rates
  • Customer retention, loyalty and churn strategy and processes
  • Processes and strategies for self-service
  • Customer communication strategy and processes
  • Analysis of customer feedback, customer satisfaction scores, customer effort scores, customer experience rating, Net Promoter Scores (NPS)
  • Social media monitoring and responding strategy and practices
  • Complaints handling strategy and processes
  • Measures of teamwork, professionalism, going the extra mile, initiative and innovation
  • Employee efficiency, productivity and quality metrics
  • Metrics for absence rates, wellness, training efficiency, employee happiness, engagement, voluntary turnover, talent turnover, pulse surveys, manager performance, and employee Net Promoter Scores (eNPS)
  • Appealing work environments, technology and culture 
  • Staff or people charters

It is commonplace for people who want to submit for an award to make a video on how great their organisation is to work for, to create a presentation promoting their achievements, and to fill in long questionnaires and self-assessments. The judges use this material to rank and rate organisational performance. 

Each of the above criteria acts as reinforcing loops because organisations are rewarded for adherence. If this is the criteria deemed appropriate for judging an organisation and winning an award, why would anyone question it? If they were to do so, an organisation might fail to win a prize or get a top rating.

In one financial services organisation, technologists had toiled long into the night to build an app where customers could see their account details on their smartphones without having to log in online or call the Contact Centre. The building of the app had been outsourced by the marketing department to an external agency who had built it, at considerable expense. The completed app looked fantastic on all devices and was extremely responsive.

However, no one from the external agency had talked to the technologists who worked for the organisation, due to a standoff between the Head of Marketing (who wanted the work outsourced) and Head of IT (who wanted the work insourced). Once the app was built, it was tested by the internal technologists. Despite having a slick interface, they found that it didn’t work very well as it had trouble talking to the organisation’s internal IT systems. Ignoring this feedback, the app was launched.

Customers duly installed the app and vented their frustration on the app review pages at how useless it was. The Contact Centre team bore the brunt of customers’ frustrations. In the customer ‘Ratings and Review’ section for the app, the overall rating ended up being 1 star out of a possible 5. The managers were largely undisturbed by this, they admitted that the only reason they had asked for an app to be created was to achieve a 5-star rating from the rating houses. The rating houses had a tick box that said ‘you must have an app’, not ‘you must have an app that is useful for customers’. A 5-star rating from the rating house was far more important than a 5-star rating from customers.

Better criteria for leaders, judges (and regulators for that matter) would be:

  • Everyone within the organisation has clarity on the purpose of work and how their work contributes towards customer value
  • The organisation understands and delivers what matters to its customers
  • The brand is reflected in every customer transaction
  • The organisation has little to no failure demand, nor waste in its processes
  • A requisite organisation is in place with the right number of layers
  • Authority and responsibility have been distributed productively throughout the organisation
  • The organisation matches the right people, to the right roles, to the right work
  • All employees have clarity on what they are meant to do, how they are doing, and what their future is
  • The organisation has created the conditions where people can work productively to their potential
  • Effective digital services have been designed by understanding how customers want to be serviced

In our experience, the criteria above match how a customer or employee would rate or judge an organisation. Why not use it?


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