When Customers And Awards Panels Collide (Or – Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls At The Expense Of Your Everyday Customers)

This blog post was inspired by a few friends of mine who have all been nominated for (and – in some cases – won) various Awards during the course of their working life.

Here is a question for you – you have a choice of two cafes. One of them has won so many Awards for the authenticity of its food (and has the certificates hanging on the walls to prove it) and comes with a personal recommendation from me – just because I love the place. The other one has the same amount of Awards for the authenticity of its food and certificates on the walls but I personally would advise you to avoid it like a particularly virulent form of the plague.

Which one would you choose??? After all, the only initial difference between them is my opinion – which you are free to ignore.

The difference between my opinion and the Awards panels is probably going to be the criteria we are using to decide whether we would recommend the place to our peers.

An Awards panel who is judging on the authenticity of food will (I hope) have at least some experience of the cuisine of the country in question. (In fact, I would hope that the panel included at least one native of the country in question.). However, I very much doubt that they would also be judging on whether or not the staff treat their customers in the same way as they would be treated in a similar establishment in the country the cuisine comes from – or whether or not the establishment is fully accessible for a person with, for example, mobility problems.

The same goes for Music Industry Awards (those which are voted for by the public are a different story) and Business Awards for things like “Best Innovator”, etc.

One of my school friends has been nominated for what sounds like a very prestigious Award in his field. I haven’t seen him in person for over 30 years but – from what I have seen of him on different clips on Social Media – he hasn’t changed much as far as his personality is concerned. He actually won the same Award last year.

Even though I have zero interest in his field of expertise (in fact, it is one of the few “sports” which makes me actually switch my TV off when it is on) – I actually find the man himself engaging with a brilliant sense of humour (as well as the ability to explain things in a way that someone like me finds interesting). So much so that I would have no hesitation in recommending him to anybody in need of his expertise.

There seems to be too much focus on winning Awards – sometimes even at the cost of the most important thing as far as a business is concerned (ie, customers). I used to work for someone who could say all the right things to anybody who even remotely appeared to be connected with an Awards judging panel but treated the rest of humanity who had the misfortune of coming into contact with him as worse than rubbish.

Going back to the question I started this blog post with – the first “cafe” in my hypothetical situation managed to surprise me earlier this week (and made me feel very happy as a result). They have reached the finals in the “Italian Food Awards” (hence the bit in my question about winning awards for the authenticity of their food). I love the place to bits (as you will know if you have read another blog post on here where they get a mention – the only reason they haven’t got a namecheck on this blog post is because I haven’t asked my school friend if I could give him a namecheck on here and I refuse to name, or quote, anyone without their prior permission). So I put a comment on their Facebook post which announced the news about them getting into the finals listing all the reasons why I love them.

Their reply honestly amazed me. I thought they were going to tell me how important the “Italian Food Awards” were to them. After all, the founders are Italian, they serve Italian food and drink, so winning the Award would be a way of proving to their peers that they are the best at what they do. It would also prove to anyone who walked in that they were about to be served with authentic products.

Instead, the reply I got was to the effect that my comment meant a lot more than the Award would. They put a lot of effort into making their day to day customers (like me) feel extremely welcome. It is no exaggeration to say that walking into their establishment feels like you are walking into their home. You might have to pay for what you consume but you cannot put a price on being treated as though you are a personal friend of the staff and owners.

So – next time you decide to go in for a “Prestigious” Award in your company’s field of expertise – please try to remember that winning that award is not the be all and end all of your company’s future existence. Paying customers are. And keeping your customers happy is a much quicker way of building your business (especially if they not only recommend your company to people they speak to but are able to recommend you to people further afield by means of a positive review on their blog or in another publication).

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