Entering a customer service award programme can be a daunting prospect. Doing it properly certainly involves a lot of hard work, but the rewards make it worth the effort. Just the process of looking back at you and your team’s achievements over the past year serves as a reminder of how far you’ve come. And giving staff the chance to celebrate their success, as judged by an objective party, can be hugely motivational and even boost future performance.
But how do you tackle that scary-looking entry form? Here are our top tips to help you impress the judges…
1. Allow yourself plenty of time to prepare your entries, including time to gather evidence and get input from around the business.
2. Think carefully about which category you want to enter – don’t just go for the one you like the sound of. Think about what your main achievements have been and play to your strengths by entering the most relevant category. Also, bear in mind that you will need hard, quantifiable results to really wow the judges, so if you can’t find these, then it could be that you’re entering the wrong category.
3. Be focused. The temptation is to tell the judges about everything you’ve done that is fantastic, but you will usually end up with a confused entry that doesn’t stick to the criteria. Tell the judges about your best and most valuable achievements in a clear, consistent way. It’s a bit more difficult as you’re answering questions, but if you can, try and tell a story in your entry. For example, the reason for the initiative is the beginning, the middle is how you implemented it and the ending is the results you have gained.
4. Read the questions on the entry form carefully and make sure that you are answering them correctly. This sounds simple, but you’d be amazed how many entrants misunderstand the questions, or put information underneath questions that are not relevant.
5. Remember that the judges don’t know your business – avoid acronyms The simpler the better. This is more difficult than it sounds because it means taking a step back from the environment and processes you are absorbed in every day. We’ve seen lots of entries that seem to assume that all contact centres run in the same way, but this is not the case and it’s best to be as clear as possible.
6. Involve the whole team. Ask staff at all levels for input – there may be hidden gems within the business that you don’t know about – and staff may have ideas about what information to include. Your teams will gain a lot from looking back and seeing everything they’ve achieved – and they well feel appreciated. Also, talking to someone at a high level will give you a good idea of how the initiative or the person has affected the business and how it fits into the company’s strategic goals.
7. Evidence, evidence, evidence. Keep statements factual, as this will help with the credibility of your entry. For example, instead of saying: “We have an excellent training programme, say: ‘our new training programme has contributed to our customer satisfaction increasing by 20% since the programme began.” Statistics are important, but remember that customer service is about people – so try to mention your teams as often as possible and what they think about the initiatives or individuals your entry focuses on.
8. Don’t forget the customer! Whichever awards programme you are entering, if they have a focus on customer service, it’s essential that you make it clear to the judges the effect the individual or initiative has had on customers – including customer testimonials is incredibly powerful – but just choose the best two or three, don’t overload the judges.
9. Presentation, spelling and grammar. It sounds obvious, but it’s difficult to overstate how important this is. I have seen judges who want to disqualify entries simply because they have lots of spelling mistakes or are not clear in their presentation. Make sure you have built time into your entry process to get it proofed by at least two different people. Try reading the answers to the questions in your entry aloud to a friend or relative – if it makes sense to them, it will definitely make sense when read on paper.
10. Supporting material – don’t overload judges with this and make sure that it is used to back up your entry. For example if you have talked about your team building events, supply photos of these, but not too many. If you’ve talked about your people, attaching photos of them will help give you entry personality and the judges are more likely to buy into your story.
Remember, it’s important to think of entering awards as a review process and an internal celebration of success. Don’t pin everything on winning – simply entering sends positive messages internally and also to your competitors.
Getting to the shortlist is an incredible achievement, as the awards programmes we have been involved in are incredibly competitive – but don’t be disappointed if you don’t make it either.
The Midlands Contact Centre Forum Awards is now open for entries! Click here for more details and how to enter.