A FIRM in Chipping Norton is celebrating after winning an award for the way it treats its customers.

The Phone Co-op won the Best Consumer Facing award at the UK Social Enterprise Awards.

The awards recognise achievements by social enterprises – businesses that reinvest their profits for good.

The Phone Co-op, which has its head office in the town, is a company that is financed by its members.

It is the UK’s only telecommunications co-operative, buying broadband and landline on behalf of its customers, and won the award thanks to its “simple and effective” way of taking customer queries.

Head of operations Craig Lumsden said the company existed to serve its 12,000 members.

He said: “We are owned by our members. They can invest anything from £1 to £100,000 in the company – the average they invest is £4,000.

“We work on their behalf to buy services such as landline and broadband.

“We get the power of the people pulling together to work with the network suppliers.

“Most people have a pretty poor experience with call centres. We are unique in the way we tell people just to phone us up. You get an actual person, from the UK, on the other end. It’s a personal service and connection.

“We treat our customers as people, and that’s what they value.

“Instead of having to go through 14 different options and then getting someone in the Philippines or somewhere, our customers get someone here.”

Mr Lumsden added that the company helped 3,000 business customers and 30,000 residents across the UK, from its base in Chipping Norton.

He said: “We are all about the people and the service. There isn’t the divide between us and customers because we are on the same side.”

The group was also praised for its work to contribute to the community of the town, by supporting the growth and development of other social enterprises.

Social Enterprise UK’s chief executive Peter Holbrook said: “Social enterprises are needed more than ever to tackle social problems.

“Congratulations to The Phone Co-op – the competition was fierce.”