Last week was Customer Service Week at RIFT. That's the time when we take a really detailed look at what we're doing to help our customers. It's partly about celebrating the kind of personal service that won us the Invicta Chamber of Commerce award for customer service last month. More than blowing our own horn, though, it's about getting a deeper understanding of what matters to you.

Obviously, the most important part of that is talking to our customers. Maybe you've seen one of our social media polls, or taken part in one of our surveys for instance. They're always great for getting your feedback on our service, but often it's the smaller, more personal details than matter most. That's where the direct comments we get from you comes in. Numbers are always crucial when you're dealing with HMRC and tax, but numbers aren't people. Most importantly, people are never just numbers to us.

AWARDS

We had an overwhelming response this year with nominations coming in from customers, colleagues and managers alike for the members of the RIFT team that have helped them the most. Choosing the winners and runners-up was a really tough job, as there were so many great examples of customer service being reported. Here are the categories:

Going the Extra Mile for an Internal Customer

Not everyone at RIFT helps customers with their tax refunds or self-assessement directly. This award is for those behind the scenes people who go above and beyond what's expected to support their colleagues and so that they can better help our customers. It recognises people who really make a difference to the services we can offer by the work they do within the RIFT team.

Runner Up: Sharon Plumpton

Sharon got a lot of nominations in this category, many talking about the amazing support she gives her team. She's always happy to step in when deadlines are tight, and has built amazing relationships with our Research & Development customers.

Winner: Mike Brankin

Mike always puts his customers at the heart of everything he does. From the survey responses he’s received this year, he’s scoring 4.93 out of 5 for customer satisfaction. That's a fantastic achievement. He’s always happy to help with any IT issue at RIFT, and approaches his work with enthusiasm and a smile. He’s worked on developing many of the systems used by our personal tax specialists that make getting tax refunds easy for our customers.

Problem Solving Champion

This award is all about handling difficulties when things go a little less smoothly. It’s about more than just fixing the problems, though. It's also about showing customers that they're in the best possible hands. It means seeing every challenge as a chance to shine.

Runner Up: Kris Goodenough

Kris always takes the time to understand the queries and problems RIFT's customers have. As part of our Digital Customer Services Team you may have talked to him on Social Media or Livechat. He puts himself in the customers’ shoes and does everything he can to resolve the issue. Nothing is too much trouble for him, whether it’s for a refund customer or to help someone in his team. Kris is keenly aware of how important your feedback is, and he's always looking out for ways to improve the help we offer.

Winner: Liam Penn

Liam was our runner-up for this award last year, and has shown a real commitment to problem solving and dealing with very complicated situations. His manager describes him as ‘Mr Customer Service himself’. Whatever problem comes up, Liam has the tenacity to investigate and find a solution. Crucially, he also takes the time to keep customers informed at all times. One nomination read, “he is truly great at his job and always goes the extra mile.”

Outstanding Customer Service

This award is for those who consistently deliver outstanding customer service to RIFT's customers.  It's about putting customers at the heart of everything, and paying special attention to their needs.

Runner up: Oliver Batt

Oliver's always prepared to go above and beyond what’s expected to make sure his customers’ needs are met. On several occasions, he’s worked out-of-hours to talk to clients when it’s convenient for them. He’s completed reports at home on his days off, and even on bank holidays, to make sure he gets the job done when his customer needed it. He’s always happy to help train and support his colleagues, too, with a wealth of knowledge and helpful manner.

Winner: Naomi Caulfield

Naomi was nominated several times across the categories. People talk about her as always giving outstanding service to all her customers. She’s a great mentor to less experienced staff, too, always there for support and to show them how we do things at RIFT. Naomi really understands the importance of great customer service, and encourages others to do the same.

Going the Extra Mile

This category was by far the hardest to judge. The stories we saw were sometimes genuinely overwhelming. In the end, it was impossible to pick just one winner and runner-up, so instead we’ve got a few:

Runners-up, in no particular order:

Marie Backler

Marie was setting up a Limited Company for a customer, but not all the information she needed had arrived. She did all she could to chase it up, with no response from the customer. Using her knowledge and initiative she saved him from HMRC fines for late delivery of accounts and kept him well informed. After a few weeks, the customer got back in touch and explained he’d been seriously ill in hospital. As a result, he hadn’t seen any of her attempts to contact him. He was so grateful for everything she’d done for him, saving a lot of pressure and stress (not to mention fines) at a critical time.

Jane Rahal

Jane had a new customer who was very close to getting HMRC's daily £10 penalties when they came to RIFT for help. She made a huge effort to help the customer get the documents and information needed to make sure they could beat the deadline together. She took conference calls and stayed late for this customer to finalise their claim and submit it before the fines started, meaning they kept all their money in their pocket – where it belongs.

Tracey Kelly

Tracey helped a customer who’d recently lost his wife. He was the sole carer for his daughter and they were in real financial hardship. Tracey arranged to have his refund paid early to him. She also put him in touch with the Lighthouse Club to arrange much-needed funds and support for him and his daughter.

Winners:

Tyler Elliott

Tyler was helping a customer who'd discovered he'd been using a fraudulent accountant before he found RIFT. They’d left him owing HMRC £20,000 and he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Tyler worked very closely with this customer. He tracked down all his income, got his tax returns up-to-date and has managed to reduce that debt to just £6,000 so far. Tyler’s still working hard to reduce it further, possibly even clearing it completely and avoiding bankruptcy. He’s been working with this customer for 2 years, even suiting up on a Saturday for meetings to assist him. When RIFT says we’ve got your back, we really mean it.

Debbie Beaumont

Debbie recently helped a customer who'd found himself in the awful position of being homeless.  Debbie was really concerned for this customer, and worked tirelessly to solve his problems. That started by getting his tax refund paid out by HMRC, of course. In addition, she also arranged for RIFT to pay it to him in advance, putting a roof over his head for the winter months.

Customer Service Champion: Chanelle Leverington

RIFT Customer Service Champions need to embody all of the categories we’ve just talked about. They have to show immense commitment to customers and colleagues, and do all they can to help.  They demonstrate on a daily basis the core values of RIFT: being Reliable, having Integrity and being Friendly and Tenacious.

Our winner this year received at least one nomination in every category. That clearly demonstrates an exceptional approach to her work and total commitment to customer service.

Chanelle is known for her amazing ability to turn very difficult situations into resolutions that end with a delighted customer. She's calm, friendly and really empathises with her customer’s needs. She never shies away from a challenge, and always meets it head-on. Her manager describes her as someone who has fully embraced customer service and care. She regularly supports her colleagues in handling tough problems, coaching them on how to prevent and handle them. She has volunteered to support colleagues in customer care, and approaches this responsibility with enthusiasm. Chanelle stands out as a true customer service star.

Customer Service Week: The Bottom Line

The whole idea of RIFT's customer service will always come down to people and their individual stories. At the end of every call and claim is a person with a story that we can guide toward a better ending. Our work, and the refunds it brings, can literally transform a person’s life. Yes, some may well just buy a new TV or pay off some debts. Occasionally, though, you hear something that gives you a real glow.

Just recently, our own Harriet Peploe spoke with an Armed Forces customer who came to us in August. We’d submitted his claim in October, and he told Harriet that this refund is going toward the trip of a lifetime.

It’s always great to hear that a refund is making a difference, but what we never would have known, had Harriet not developed such a great relationship with the person is that the reason for this trip is that it’s a celebration of his young daughter having been given the all clear after having been diagnosed with a brain tumour 2 years ago.

The tumour has caused her to have 2 strokes, and even put her in a coma for 3 months. She suffered from left-sided facial palsy as a result, and has had to learn to walk again. She also had to abandon school, and has been too ill to go on holiday since the diagnosis. Thankfully, she has finally been given the all-clear. She's started back at school, and the refund means the family can now set about booking their trip to Florida.

This is just one RIFT story. There are countless others, and they always bring home what a huge impact the work we do can have. That's the heart of Customer Service Week, because that's always been the heart of RIFT.

RIFT are the UK's leading tax rebate and tax return experts, dealing with tax since 1999.