Customer service 'superstars' from businesses across Cessnock City were recognised on Friday night at the 2019 Cessnock Customer Service Awards.
More than 200 people attended the awards at Cessnock Leagues Club, where Kane Jackson from the Commonwealth Bank took home the overall award for excellence in customer service.
Kane said he was surprised to win the award, but with the job title 'customer service specialist', it is the foundation of his day-to-day work.
"It's something that builds a business - you've got to care about your customers," he said.
With a total of 1155 nominations submitted for this year's awards, covering 390 individuals and 49 teams across 187 businesses, choosing winners and runners-up in each category - and then an overall winner - was a tough task for the judges.
It was Kane's patience, care and compassion for his customers that sealed his win.
Kane took home the overall award after winning the professional category, in which the judges couldn't split the runners-up, awarding trophies to Katrina Radnidge from Sternbeck's Real Estate and courier Steve Lane.
Liam Allanson from Woolworths Cessnock - who is also in the running to be named Woolworths' national checkout operator of the year on Tuesday night - won the retail category, with Richelle Stirrat from West End Pharmacy the runner-up.
The trade category trophy went to Lindsey Black from Sign Style, with Leanne Small-Rankin from Elite Hairtique the runner-up.
Melissa Gontier from Hunter Hands of Hope won the community services section, with Colette Blishen from Hunter Respite Services named runner-up.
The hospitality category went to Jacqueline Hope-Simmonds from Wine Country Motor Inn, with Brent Bloom from Zambrero runner-up.
Chameleon Play Cafe took out the team of the year award, with Wine Country Motor Inn the runners-up.
The business owner of the year award went to Dayne Poole from Hunter Area Plumbing; and the runner-up was Lisa-Maree Horder from Lisa-Maree Horder Hair Stylist.
Mr Poole said he was honoured to take home another trophy from the awards, after winning the overall award last year, and being runner-up in the business owner category in 2017.
"I truly believe great customer service is the cornerstone of good business," he said.
The awards are an initiative of Cessnock Chamber of Commerce, and are in their tenth year in the current format.
Chamber president Clint Ekert said the awards are held to acknowledge customer service "superstars" in our region.
"It really is heartwarming to hear what lengths people are going to in their delivery of exceptional customer service," he said.
"Each year I am blown away at the stories we hear and this year is no different.
"It certainly made it a very tough job for our judges. Judging is always an incredibly difficult job.
"There can only be a couple of people acknowledged with a trophy in each category, but just by receiving a nomination it means someone has taken the time out of their day to appreciate what you do, to appreciate the level of customer service you have given and to thank you for improving their day.
"To all of our winners congratulations, keep up the good work and make sure we are all providing the level of service year round, not just in the lead up to these awards."