Judging Interview: Steve Elvins

Thomas FairbairnNovember 5, 201910min0

Last week, I caught up with Steve Elvins, Senior Director Global Digital Engagement at Thermo Fisher Scientific. 

He assessed entries and presentations in the Customer Centric Culture category at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards, and we discussed what it means to judge with Awards International.


How did you find out about judging with Awards International?

I actually got contacted by Lisa via Linkedin, seeing if I was interested in being a judge. I’ve been asked to do a few things in the past for Awards International and other companies, and I always made an excuse not to do it! But it came at a good time and I decided to get involved.


What did you make of the two-step judging process?

It was good. Once you get into it, it’s fine. The written piece can be a challenge but the presentation helps to put more detail around it so you get a real sense of the company and the people in it. Initially, when you’re doing the written version, you want to make sure you’re doing the right thing and scoring in the right way. I did a lot of reworking, going back over my scores and making sure I was comfortable. After that, it was good to follow up with the presentation, to get more insight, be able to ask questions. It’s sometimes difficult to write something like that in a way that captures the imagination, so to be able to learn about the initiative in a presentation really helps. 

On the panel, I met some really good contacts who I’m now connecting with. From a judging perspective, I met a diverse range of people within the field that I was able to discuss ideas and thoughts with, so that was certainly a positive experience on the day.


What did you learn about customer experience? 

It was really interesting to see the diverse nature of creating those customer experiences. There were very diverse organisations, from automotive repairs to a company that provides baby clothes. They were very different businesses, but all trying to look after the customer in a different way. I think my takeaway was appreciating the ability to really put the customer at the core. A lot of companies talk about that, but the ones that were really successful were able to make a real shift in the organisation, with the leadership pushing it and backing it throughout the organisation to make real change. 

Ultimately, Solus won our category (and overall) because they did exactly that. I think in a bigger organisation, that sponsorship, drive and buy-in from the organisation that change has to happen was a takeaway for me.

Another interesting thing was looking at Mum & You, and considering how that company would face challenges as it grew. So being able to have that one-to-one contact with their customers, creating a community, was really interesting. Some of us who sit in big organisations can sometimes struggle with how we get our arms around the customer, so it was interesting to see how a small company was starting to get into that bigger side and how they were going to handle that.

Another takeaway that I had very strongly was from CODE Students, who quite clearly had put the student experience at the heart of what they were doing, and they talked having psychologists available for students. There was another company that also had an on-site psychologist for their employees: not just people talking about mental health, but actually seeing mental health become part of everyday occurrence for employees in order to better serve customers. That was quite a powerful thing I picked up from a number of the submissions. 


Did you enjoy the fact that the Awards are cross-sector?

100%. It was a real upside to see how other companies and industries were tackling a challenge that we’re all facing – adapting to customer requirements and making sure that we’re differentiating ourselves in that way.

Seeing how other companies from different sectors – but also of different sizes – are handling that was really interesting. 


Register your interest for the UK Customer Experience Awards 2020 today!


Solus, winner of Steve’s category and Overall Winner at the UK Customer Experience Awards


What feedback do you have for the presenters?

A couple of things: bring in all the stakeholders who experienced change within the organisation – as many as you can. Solus brought in the engineers to be part of the presentation. We asked them some questions at the end, and they were able to back up what the leadership team were saying. 

It wasn’t just a leader saying ‘look at how great we are!’ The engineers, the people that bought in to what they were trying to do, were all in the room. I think that showed an organisation that bought into the vision of what they were trying to achieve. Using your stakeholders in the right way is very powerful. 

I also think that companies should focus on what the outcomes were. There was obvious passion from everyone, the businesses were clearly doing well, but in some of the written submissions, and even in some of the presentations, you didn’t get a sense of what they meant for the business. Ultimately, most of those businesses had to create a healthy bottom line in order to exist and reinvest, but we didn’t always get a sense of the benefits they were telling us about. For the smaller businesses, who may not be so focused on that every day, or maybe it’s just not such a big part of what they do, I think they could think about it a little more.


What was your overall impression of the judging experience?

Overall, it was fantastic. If you love customer experience, if you’re in that industry and you’re passionate about it, hearing from other people working in that industry and the progress they’ve made is very inspiring. Hearing people talk about the businesses they obviously love (some of them were family-owned) was really inspiring.

Learning about all the different inputs and different techniques that people were using – such as more scientific customer journey mapping or customer sessions – was very interesting as well, because I could see how people are technically collecting their data and then using that data to be more customer-centric. 

Also, it was great to meet the judging panel and have the opportunity to talk all day with those individuals who I’ve now connected with. That gives you more connections into that market, into other people who are passionate about the same thing. 

I would highly recommend it. I got a lot out of it personally and professionally from listening to and judging these submissions, it’s something I’d be more than happy to do again.


Entries for the UK Customer Experience Awards open officially on 14th February 2020, but you can register your interest now!

To read more Awards International stories about customer experience, click here

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