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Best Kept Secret

The Best Kept Secret - SQM’s Agent of the Year

If you haven't heard about SQM's Agent of the Year award, you are sadly missing out. It really is our favorite award to not only give out but also to choose the winner. In addition, reading through the hundreds of submissions on how Agents have impacted their customers' lives is truly enlightening.

According to Nader Ghattas, Chief CX Officier at SQM, there is nothing quite like the excitement when we announce the top 25 finalists for this award, as everyone realizes the impact this award can have on that one extraordinary individual. This is not just an award but an experience considering SQM conducts surveys on over 60,000 front-line customer service representatives annually, and from those, one Agent emerges as Agent of the Year.

For our clients that are part of the SQM Contact Center Certification Program, SQM captures the Voice of the Customer (VoC) feedback from over a million surveys collected during the previous year. We then put together the list of customer service representatives (Agents) by an organization that has met all the World Class Agent criteria.

Our clients, in turn, review the list and pick their top Agents to nominate for the Agent of the Year award. They do this by submitting a Customer Experience (CX) story describing what makes their Agent the best of the best. For example, the CX story could be about how the Agent inspired their team, helped create a positive memorable experience resulting in a fundamental difference in the customer's life, or changed the company's approach when dealing with similar customer situations. These stories can make you cry, laugh, or show how the Agent went above and beyond the call of duty. Every CX story is unique in its own special way.

After all the submissions are in, a selected team from SQM reads each submission, and we're talking hundreds of stories! Next, each member of the team rates all the stories, selects their top 25 candidates for Agent of the Year, and then the battle is on!

Out of the top 25, the team collectively makes the official decision on Agent of the Year, which is always a challenging decision to make. In 2017, we had a clear winner emerge from the stories, and that was Madison Blow from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT). You can find her story under our 2016 Great Agent CX Success Stories.

Madison BlowIn 2017, I had the honor of meeting Madison Blow at our 18th Annual Customer Experience Conference & Awards in Vernon BC, Canada, at Sparkling Hill Resort and Spa. Little did I know when I met her that she had been picked as CSR of the Year; that’s right, we keep that secret locked up tight until the evening of the Awards dinner and gala event. She was heading out to enjoy her CSR Appreciation Day of Ziplining in Oyama, BC, with a smile on her face and no clue that she would be named the winner of CSR of the Year that evening. The CSR of the Year receives a world class CX medallion, pin tube award, a trophy award to display on their desk, and $1,000 cash!


The CSR Appreciation Day event is a way for companies to celebrate their CSRs’ successes over the year. SQM provides these CSRs with options for unique experiences such as special spa days, wine and spirit tours, golf, or an outdoor adventure. After a day of fun or relaxing, the CSRs finish off their day at the Awards dinner and gala event.

Looking back at Madison over a year later, I’ve been given the opportunity to touch base with her and see how winning CSR of the Year has changed her life. Truly an honor for me!


Having already been told that you were certified as world class certified representative for 2016, how did it feel when you were told that you qualified for the top 25 finalists in SQM’s CSR of the Year Award and going to Canada?

I was completely surprised that I had been chosen as one of the top 25 finalists. After submitting my story, I did not want to get my hopes up too much because I knew there were so many amazing stories being submitted from all over the US and Canada. When I let the news sink in that I was going to Canada, I was extremely excited and so grateful for the opportunity. It was made even more special by the fact that 2016 was the first and only year that I was eligible to submit a story because I was promoted to a Team Leader in our Customer Service Department at BCBSVT that year!

What was the most exciting part of the entire experience for you?

I was in shock when my name was called as winning CSR of the Year.  My friend, Alyssa, was also one of the 25 finalists and she was standing behind me on stage when my name was called.  At first, I didn’t even move because I really did not expect to win, so Alyssa actually had to give me a little push to go accept the award! I started crying out of pure happiness and excitement! It was truly an amazing moment for me.

If you could give any advice to the future top 25 CSR of the Year finalists, what would it be?

Believe in yourself! Initially, I wasn’t even going to submit my story because I thought that I didn’t have a chance of being chosen as a finalist, but then my amazingly supportive supervisor encouraged me to share it. I am so thankful that she did because the SQM Conference was truly a once in a lifetime experience for me.

Madison Blow ZiplineWhat will you remember the most about your experience with SQM?

I will always remember going on the ziplining adventure! I chose that as my activity before the awards dinner and I definitely made the right choice! I had never been ziplining before and my first experience in the beautiful, scenic mountains of Canada, was breathtaking and exhilarating! I also met so many amazing and fun people that I would not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. It was an amazing experience!

Now that you’ve won CSR of the Year, do you think you’ll aim for Supervisor of the Year (or CX Leader of the Year) next?

I am still a Team Leader in the Customer Service department at BCBSVT and I truly love my job! I am not sure where the future will take me, but I am not going to count that out just yet!

How has winning CSR of the Year impacted your role at your organization?

Winning CSR of the Year has helped me become a better mentor to the representatives I work with every day. The whole experience taught me to believe in myself and to never pass up an opportunity. Every year I encourage all of the representatives to submit a story because if I can do it, they certainly can too!

Madison Blow TrophyWhat do colleagues say is your best quality?

I actually asked a few of my colleagues this question to help me out and they said that I was very supportive and never pass judgement. My main goal as team leader is to help my coworkers reach their potential by creating a safe and supportive environment for them to learn in.  I never want someone to feel judged or criticized while doing their job. I just want them to know that I am always there to help when they need me.

What phrase or motto resonates with you most about customer service?

“Keep calm and carry on!”

We finish the interview and you step outside the office and find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

Since I didn’t buy it, I would feel way too guilty to hold on to it because someone else truly deserves it! I would go to the front desk and see if we could find anyone who had lost a lottery ticket… Then I would ask for a finder’s fee. (kidding!)

Would you rather be the first person to explore a planet or be the inventor of a drug that cures a deadly disease?

I would rather be the inventor of a drug that cures a deadly disease. I would also make sure that it was affordable for the people that need it!

Would you rather have an easy job working for someone else or work for yourself but work incredibly hard?

I would rather work incredibly hard for myself. I love a good challenge and enjoy keeping busy! I would definitely get bored with having an easy job.

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self starting over?

I would say “Please, do not stress over things you cannot control!” Life is too short to spend it stressed out, so I would tell my younger self to stop worrying about what can happen and to just do my best and have fun in the present! As John Lennon said perfectly “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Madison, and congratulations on your much-deserved promotion to Team Leader. I look forward to hearing about your future accomplishments.