Suffolk Business Awards 2021: meet the Customer Excellence Award finalists

Smiling woman wearing headset

Pocket Receptionist is a Lowestoft-based call-answering service which listens to its clients to mould the business - Credit: Pocket Receptionist

The Customer Excellence Award at this year's Suffolk Business Awards recognises businesses that exemplify outstanding customer service, consistently delivered at the highest level by a customer-focused individual or team. Meet the finalists for this year’s Customer Excellence Award, sponsored by Greater Anglia.

Pocket Receptionist 

Pocket Receptionist is a Lowestoft-based call-answering service. Founded five years ago as a by-product of SwitchboardFREE VoIP services, the company has grown exponentially and surpassed its one-million call milestone this year. Its goal for 2022 is to offer 24/7 availability to customers.  

The judges said it was “crystal clear that customer care is a driving force for the success of Pocket Receptionist”. Not only was the company’s core product born out of feedback from clients, but it continues to listen to customers to mould the business. Examples of this include the introduction of LiveChat, developing easier-to-use apps and making it simpler to leave feedback.

According to the judges, every department head “displayed a clear commitment to ensuring market-leading customer care in their own ways.” They highlighted the company’s use of tech as one of its strongest points, noting how it allows a free flow of information from customers through to the team to support their continuous improvement.

Woman's ear being checked with otoscope

The Hearing Care Centre has continued to put customers first through a number of initiatives - Credit: Adrian Rawlinson/The Hearing Care Centre

The Hearing Care Centre 

The Hearing Care Centre is an independent provider of specialist hearing care and earwax removal services. Established in 1998, the company now employs 25 staff, including six audiologists, four ear care practitioners and a hearing care assistant. 

The company is based on Upper Brook Street in Ipswich town centre and also provides appointments from a further 23 part-time locations across Suffolk and Norfolk, as well as visiting patients in their home. 

With The Hearing Care Centre now under the ownership of the Audiology Clinic, the judges noted how the company has retained its intimate client relationships and continued to put customers first through a number of initiatives. The contactless care approach was a huge benefit to clients during lockdown and continues to be appreciated by the most vulnerable as a new normal.  

Most Read

The judges also praised the company’s ability to listen to customers and shape the business through feedback. This has led to new satellite offices and improved accessibility in certain locations. Little touches such as posted tea bags were described as “priceless”.

Smiling woman serving food

Facilities management company Vertas has previously one the Customer Excellence Award - Credit: Pagepix Ltd/Vertas

Vertas Group

Vertas is one of the fastest-growing facilities management companies in Great Britain. It delivers services in cleaning, catering, security, energy management, environmental, education management, grounds and landscapes, reception and concierge, passenger transport, courier and postal and property management. The company has over 4,000 employees and a head office in Ipswich. 

A previous winner of this award, the judges said Vertas “showed once again why they are leading the way in customer care”. Despite its size, the company manages to stay close and personal with customers through its people strategy and customer-first approach. Behaviours that demonstrate great customer care are rewarded through client appreciation awards and client compliments of the month.  

A full-day module on customer care is embedded in Vertas’ Aspiring Leaders program, with a customer relation update included in every monthly board report. The judges concluded: “With the new customer panel in place, it appears client feedback will continue to shape the direction of this business and ensure that customer care is at its heart.”

Computer screen displaying MAD-HR's toolkit

MAD-HR is committed to creating 24/7 digital solutions for its clients - Credit: MAD-HR


Founded in 2014, MAD-HR is an HR consultancy that delivers support and training to ambitious businesses across the East of England. In addition to outsourced HR services, the company offers HR consultancy, training and coaching, an HR helpline and online toolkit. It is committed to creating 24/7 digital solutions for its clients, combined with a high level of customer service. 

While MAD-HR took a similar approach to other businesses in moving services online during the pandemic, the judges noted that the company “very cleverly used a content strategy to add value for its network, producing rafts of blogs, webinars and other content at no extra cost”. 

MAD-HR also “went above and beyond” with initiatives such as reducing client fees to mirror any drops in salaries due to furlough or other economic pressures, and changing working hours to reflect the needs of clients having to juggle work and parenting responsibilities.