The judges with a rep from the Dubai Department of Economic Development. (Images via Awards International)
Customer experience. A buzzword that no one really knows the meaning of.
That at least was the sentiment of Neil Skehel, CEO of Awards International, organizers of last week’s CX Awards in Dubai.
With the awards Skehel said that rather than answer the question of what exactly constitutes as ‘customer experience’, they wanted to ask it, through their competition categories.
“We are not prescribing a definition of what is business excellence or customer excellence,” he said. “We identify people who can, and try to bring best practices to light.”
The result was the debut of their Gulf Customer Experience Awards on January 20, in collaboration with the Dubai Department of Economic Development.
Ian Golding, a certified customer experience trainer, talked about the possibilities of positive customer experience.
The categories spanned multiple sectors, including government services, best digital agency or team, best application, and education.
Presentations were open to all attendees unless specified otherwise. Vandana Gandhi, CEO and founder of British Orchard Nursery (BON), said this structure offered a huge value for learning, especially for a non-corporate entity like BON.
“We are here to learn, grow and share ideas,” she said. “It’s very challenging for teachers in education to come into a corporate world [like this]. [We come] to learn about best practitioners and see how we can innovate.”
This level of transparency was a key component of the entire experience, said Mark Hamill, managing director at Awards International. Post the event, each finalist received a benchmark report showing their performance versus other finalists, and every entrant received a written critique of their entry.
Dr. Manzoor Nasser al Razooqi, director of Dubai Police’s Virtual Technology Centre was there to learn about the other organizations participating, noting that other organizations might not know what Dubai Police has to offer.
His co-team member, First Lieutenant Dawood Hasson, said awards like these allow you to take a step back from your work and evaluate it.
“We think we do a good job, but how to evaluate ourselves?” he explained. “We cannot evaluate ourselves, we have to go out there and compete. [These awards] show us if we are on the right track or not.”
As part of the Gulf Digital Experience Awards, User Vision won the 'Best Application' and 'Digital Pioneer' awards.
Judges were given simple criteria to make their choices. It was about the planning, the implementation and the results, Hamill said.
Mike Hoff, founder of Mike Hoff Consulting, who judged the ‘Professional Services/SME’ and ‘Contact Center’ categories, said he specifically looked for markers that would help develop a solid standard of, and drive, customer service measurement in Dubai.
“I was looking for how focused they really are on the customer or are they just focused on the service?” Hoff said. “As importantly, I looked at how [they] measured customer service and how they are encouraging customers to interact with the companies.”
The presentation session was followed by keynote remarks from Ian Golding, a certified customer experience trainer who discussed the drivers and possibilities of positive customer experiences. The awards were then presented by Mohammed Bushanain, executive director at the Business Excellence Center of the Department of Economic Development, and Hamill.
Careem also picked up the award for ‘Professional Services’.
Highlighting their “unicorn growth” since their launch in 2013, UAE general manager Christian Eid stressed the importance of keeping not just their customers happy, but also their “captains”, so their drivers, and internal staff, as part of their customer experience.
“Customer service is not complaint management,” Eid said during his presentation.
Noting that the awards focused on understanding [the company’s] innovation and ability to adapt to the region, along with out of the box thinking that was customer centric, Eid said he was thankful because, “we believe we have been successful so far because we were so agile...and it’s always good to be recognized.”
HSBC won the 'Best Transformation' award.
Held at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, the event began a little past eight in the morning and also featured the first Gulf Digital Customer experience awards.
Founded in the UK, the CX awards are a follow up to last year’s inaugural International Business Excellence awards held in Dubai. With 23 categories at hand, the Gulf CX awards accepted entries from all over the Middle East and North Africa with each participant submitting a written entry to be shortlisted. Finalists then spent the first half of the day offering timed presentations on their customer experience initiatives to selected judges.