Thomas Fairbairn, Author at Awards International


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnJuly 23, 20203min2690

There are many benefits to getting involved in our awards programmes, and publicity is certainly one of them. At every stage of your Awards journey, there are real positives for your marketing strategy.

First, there’s the process of writing your entry. This requires you to explain your initiative from first principles, and many of our customers find this process very useful. You might be used to discussing your work with people who already know it, so explaining it to an outside observer is a really beneficial exercise. Writing your entry can help you get a newfound appreciation for the hard work you’ve done, or help you understand it more thoroughly.

If you become a finalist, the same goes for delivering your presentation to the judges. You’ll have to pitch your initiative to the independent panel, who will ask searching questions about the work you’ve done. This forces you to think creatively and explain what you do to somebody who isn’t a colleague or client!

Finalists also get a great deal of social media promotion. We will announce you as a finalist on various platforms, and there is the opportunity to do a free “Finalists Spotlight” interview in the build-up to the Awards – for extra exposure! As we get closer to the event, we will keep reminding people of your participation. You will also receive customised banners to help you publicise your involvement in the Awards.

On the day of the Awards Finals, you’ll be able to get the word out about your company even more, by meeting and connecting with other professionals at the event. We also do video interviews throughout the day, where we’ll ask you about your initiative and experience on the day. And of course, if you win, we will announce that on all our social media accounts as soon as it happens!

All winners will also receive a new set of social media logos and banners to use in marketing materials, so you’re ready to wow your customers with news of your amazing victory!

But as we’ve seen, there are benefits at every stage. You’ll learn something valuable about your organisation in the entry process, and if you’re a finalist you’ll get a lot of exposure and the chance to meet some fascinating people. Winning is just the icing on the cake!


The entry deadline for the UK Customer Experience Awards is 7th August – enter now!



Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnJuly 8, 20203min2190

There’s no shortage of amazing music in the world – that’s one thing that’s made lockdown a lot more bearable!

We love to book music acts for our Awards, having featured Heather Small and S-Club in previous years. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out who we book for the UK Customer Experience Awards this October!

These are just a few of the songs I’ve enjoyed during lockdown, and I wanted to share them with you. Hopefully they lift your spirits like they did for me!


1. Belle & Sebastian, For The Price of a Cup of Tea 

From their seminal 2006 album The Life Pursuit, these Scottish indie darlings capture domestic settings very well, and there’s a gentle kindness to their music that I find very uplifting.



2. Arcade Fire, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) 

Concerning the desire to escape the pressures of city life, this song affirms our ability to look beyond difficult circumstances and find hope.



3. Led Zeppelin, The Rain Song

A golden oldie, this one starts with a highly reflective tone that seems to capture the present mood. Towards the end, though, the music breaks, as if sun finally shines through the clouds: “I felt the coldness of my winter/I never thought it would ever go/I cursed the gloom that set upon us/But I know that I love you so.”



For an uplifting celebration of CX excellence, enter the UK Customer Experience Awards. Featuring entertainment, presentations and recognition of extraordinary CX accomplishments, it’s a day that will live long in the memory!



Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnJuly 8, 20207min3240

Tomorrow, June 9th, is the UK Business Awards. As part of the event, we’re recognising people that have gone above and beyond in these extraordinary times. These people have all demonstrated their heroism in various ways, and we’re proud to be associated with each and every one of them. Let’s hear their stories.


Mark Jones, Police Constable at Greater Manchester Police

PC Mark Jones has been leading the OPTIK program from GMP almost single handed. Although he is supported by an extended team on the ground, he has been performing far more than is required from him and his dedication has been outstanding. Mark has been instrumental in driving the key decisions and future roadmaps for OPTIK. As a PC, not only he has been coordinating with HCL, but also been liaising directly at multiple levels within GMP, including chief officers.

Having a number of years of front-line operational policing experience, Mark has stepped out of his comfort zone and has played a vital role in bridging the gap between Policing and IT. He has transitioned himself into more of a techno cop bringing an ideal mix of technology and policing knowledge into the program.
Mark has played a crucial role in not only identifying the right candidates for OPTIK but also in transforming end to end processes and introducing the much-needed innovation. His approach and dedication has helped him earn both the trust and the respect from across the board.



Rakesh Prusty, Solutions Architect at HCL Technologies Ltd.


Rakesh has been instrumental setting up the right team and the right process to get the project delivered on time and thus creating value to customer. He wore multiple hats in the program – being an architect, a scrum master, technical reviewer etc.. and guided the distributed teams to deliver the program.







Rachel Brooks, Operations Director at Swimtime

On the 17th March, the entire of Swimtime was forced to shut down due to COVID 19. A multi million turnover business to zero in one moment. This was an extremely difficult time for our whole team, arguably none more so than for Rachel.
Throughout the immediate period, Rachel lead Swimtime’s operations to do a total shut down, communicating with 20,000 customers, 250+ venues, reassuring staff and giving our Franchisees huge amount of support. All whilst facing uncertain herself as the company faces extensive financial headwinds. It was a huge task for which no training or procedures could prepare you for.
Rachel has achieved incredible results, the industry average for loss of customers is touching 30%, through Rachel’s actions this has been less than 1% for Swimtime. Rachel Brooks is nothing short of a hero and thoroughly deserves recognition.




Ryan Brown, Operations Director at FranScape

On the 17th March, the entirety of Swimtime was forced to shut down due to COVID 19. Our key technology partner FranScape were faced with a number of challenges to quickly shut down major systems and ensure communication was maintained to clients across a number of channels. For example, stopping the recurring payment run to ensure customers were not caused additional stress and confusion.
Ryan Brown was exceptional during this period, going above and beyond to ensure every process was designed, developed and tested thoroughly before launch. As a result, Swimtime continued to receive great feedback and have retained many of our customers.
Ryan himself has faced uncertain on his future but despite this, he continued to focus on the task in hand. He was an essential part of the projects success and deserves to be recognized.





David Hughes, CEO of the Association of Colleges

When COVID19 hit, the challenge of keeping the further education sector focused, informed and progressing across the UK was immediately taken up by David.
Being highly visible from the start, he instantly engaged the 338 AoC member Colleges, hosting mobilisation webinars (even doing the first one whilst he nervously waited in the Heathrow arrivals lounge, hoping his daughter had made it back to the UK safe from Nepal).
This early approach of clear communication via webinars and social media etc, enabled him to gain the support of major publications such as FE Week for real time messaging. Soon the whole sector engaged in webinars and #Loveourcolleges social media campaigns to showcase best practice, engaging key Ministers – who were able to address key concerns for the sector. His lobbying for funding, bringing leaders together and positive messages of support as well as physically engaging in lockdown campaigns such as #BakeOff, #GoTheDistance #WorldSkills at this time of crisis, has shown him to be a real hero for the sector.



We can’t wait to recognise the heroism of these remarkable people at tomorrow’s event. We hope you can join us!


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnJuly 8, 20203min2220

This year, we’ve taken the decision to hold the UK Customer Experience Awards online from start to finish.

We appreciate how much our customers love coming to Wembley Stadium for the event – we love it too – but holding a physical event wouldn’t be the right decision at the moment, for our customers or employees. Public health comes first. But we know we can deliver an amazing online awards experience.

We know that because we’ve done it before. In May, we pioneered this fresh approach at the South East Europe Customer Experience Awards, and it was a resounding success. Finalists presented via videoconferencing apps, the scoring was all done online, and we created a phenomenal atmosphere for the Awards Ceremony in the afternoon.

And this month, we’ll be perfecting the approach further as we hold two more Awards online. By October, we’ll be ready to hold our biggest online event ever: the UK Customer Experience Awards.

Find out more

Companies have shown extraordinary flexibility to meet customer needs in these challenging times. It’s more important than ever that your customers hear about those successes, and that you celebrate the hard work done by your team to achieve CX excellence.

This is an extraordinary event, whether you’re a finalist or not. We’re offering non-finalist tickets for those who want to benefit from the many educational opportunities on offer. There will be dozens of finalist presentations that you can attend, as well as a series of #CXTrendTalks from some of the biggest names in the industry. Our Awards are unique in this way: no other event combines competition and knowledge-sharing like we do!

And without the need to travel to London, we look forward to welcoming a greater number of guests from all corners of the United Kingdom. In the evening of October 15th, we will all come together online for the Awards Ceremony, which will feature some unforgettable entertainment, keynote speeches and, of course, the announcement of the winners!

We’ve adapted our approach so that CX professionals can keep getting recognition: if you’ve shown great adaptability, this is your time to shine!



The entry deadline for the UK Customer Experience Awards is August 7th. 



Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnJune 24, 20205min3770
The Mona Lisa – a classic example of emotional ambiguity.

I think it’s fair to say that the past few months have been the strangest in my lifetime. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this. This crisis has caused enormous social and economic disruption, as well as many deaths around the world. At Awards International, our deepest thoughts and sympathies go out to everyone affected by COVID-19, both directly and indirectly.

Social distancing has become a way of life, forcing us to act against our nature and keep apart from friends and family. In the world of work, the Zoom call has become the new normal. For those fortunate enough not to be furloughed or even lose their jobs, this has meant huge changes to the employee experience, but I believe that many of these are actually beneficial and will remain in place once this crisis has passed.

Earlier in the year, just before the lockdown started, I interviewed DeAnna Avis from Solus Accident Repair Centres. As part of their customer experience strategy, she stressed the importance of “vulnerability, being mindful, and getting people to open up.” This need for greater humanity and acknowledgment of vulnerability has been a trend in employee experience for some time now. But COVID-19 has accelerated the trend.

On a Zoom call, we are reminded that everyone has a home life. We see many examples of this: it might be the sound of children playing in the background, or perhaps a cat climbing over the keyboard! Although some people might think this is damaging, I think the contrary: we are reminded of the essential humanity of the people we work with and, in my view, this lays the foundation for stronger working relationships.

There is no hiding our vulnerability: the mere fact that we are working from home and “staying alert” is evidence of this. Of course, professionalism matters, competence matters, but the idea that we need to present ourselves as in control 100% of the time seems to be breaking down. I call this concept “emotional distancing”. And I think we’re seeing less of it.

In my view, this is a good thing. In his book Happy, Derren Brown argues that a lot of our insecurities come from the contrast between social and inner selves. When we meet other people, we are confronted with their social self: a well-polished, presentable version of their personality. We then compare that to our own inner self, which can feel a lot less polished! The perception of that gulf, although in reality an illusion, is the source of a great deal of discontent. I think that this crisis has made that gap smaller. Seeing our colleagues in a domestic setting and discussing lockdown mental health reminds us of how similar we really are, and how we all face common challenges.

Having read many judges’ comments from previous Awards, I’ve noticed that this is something they want finalists to discuss. If a presenter gives a 100% positive account of their initiative, judges can often be sceptical. They might well ask a question about the challenges a finalist has faced – and they expect an honest answer. In my experience, finalists that can speak frankly about the challenges they faced, and how they overcame them, are rewarded for this honesty by the judges. There doesn’t need to be a contradiction between facing difficulties and doing great work.

As with many crises in the past, this pandemic provides us with a chance to reflect on our values, and think about the kind of world we want to see when this is over. And in my opinion, a world where we acknowledge our problems is one where we can truly help each other.




Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnJune 24, 20202min2560

A key element of all our Awards Ceremonies is the entertainment. Whether music or magic, we love to give our guests a thrilling experience. Today, we want to remind you of some of our favourite acts from the past, and give you an indication of what you can expect at our upcoming Awards!


1. Ben Hart

Ben has hosted the Awards for us on several occasions, combining his sublime skill as a magician with his easygoing presenting manner. Let’s take a look at the trick that made him his name, when he performed for the judges on Britain’s Got Talent:



2. Heather Small

At last year’s UK Customer Experience Awards, we were treated to a phenomenal performance by Heather Small at the end of the Awards Ceremony. Her music is truly uplifting – and this song really captures the spirit of our Awards:



3. Nick Crown

Nick hosted this year’s UK Complaint Handling Awards with great aplomb. As a mind-reader and close-up magician, he brought a great deal of charisma to the role. In this TED talk, he discusses his craft in some detail, giving some incredible displays of his skill:



All three of these performers helped make the Awards an unforgettable occasion. You’ll have to enter the UK Customer Experience Awards or International Customer Experience Awards (or both!) to find out the amazing entertainment we’ve prepared for you.


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnJune 24, 20203min4210

The International Customer Experience Awards were due to be held in Amsterdam on 19th November.

However, due to the uncertainty posed by COVID-19, we have taken the decision to move these Awards online. Of course, if the situation changes substantially and it is possible to hold the event live whilst guaranteeing safety for our customers and employees, we will do so. But since we cannot be sure when the present restrictions on large gatherings will be lifted, we have decided to make the Awards online.

We’re confident in delivering an exceptional online awards experience. Having already hosted the South East Europe Customer Experience Awards using videoconferencing software, we know that this can be done with great success.

Enter the International Customer Experience Awards 

The essential format of the Awards will remain the same. Half your score comes from a written entry, and half comes from a presentation to an independent judging panel. In this case, the presentation will take place online, as will the Awards Ceremony in the evening.

This year, we’re also introducing a series of #CXTrendTalks, in which leading customer experience specialists will discuss the latest issues in the industry. This culminates in a panel discussion featuring all the speakers and chaired by our CEO, Neil Skehel. You can attend these talks, either before or after your presentation, and gain some further insights into the state of customer experience.

In the evening, we will all come together for the Awards Ceremony, where we find out the winners in each of the 17 categories, plus the Overall Winner. Featuring keynote speeches and musical entertainment, it promises to be an extraordinary celebration of the hard work and expertise of CX professionals from all over the world.

November 19th promises to be a very special day: we hope you can join us online to share your story of CX success!

Enter the International Customer Experience Awards 



Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnJune 10, 20208min3850

At Awards International, we’re incredibly proud of our team. They work incredibly hard to give every customer the individual attention they deserve, and help them out a great deal throughout their Awards journey. This is the case for both finalists and judges.

To give you an indication of the help we can offer, today we’re sharing interviews with two members of the team. Explaining how we can help finalists is Awards Consultant Kristina Simonovic, and discussing the judging process is our Customer Relationship Executive Vuk Vukanovic. We hope this gives you a clear picture of the attention, care and hard work we put in for our customers.



In what ways can you assist a customer on their Awards journey?

My main goal as a consultant is to focus on the work our customers have done and advise them how to best approach the awards process. The process itself is straightforward, but I am able to advise on the best material to use for their initiative, and help with choosing the right category. Guiding them through the awards journey, it is my job to provide an excellent customer experience from our side as well. This means if they need any help with writing an entry, additional material in terms of case studies or guides on how entries are scored, I am able to assist and provide them with that. My advices ranges from the technical side to specific situations that require an individual approach.

I want to make sure everyone feels worthy of the award and are proud to be participating due to their brilliant work.


What general advice can you give for somebody considering how to write their entry?

Believe in your work and focus on how best to describe your journey to the results.  Don’t be afraid to speak about the challenges along the way and how you overcame them.

Include examples, images, and most of all: make sure your initiative has some heart!


What are the main benefits of becoming a finalist?

Honestly, people are not always aware of how much time Judges spend on scoring the written entry and the live presentations, as well. Finalists get excellent feedback! Plus the competition in all of our awards is quite strong, so it makes it even more impressive when you reach the Finals. To be able to present your work in front of all your peers and hear what they are doing, as well – that’s really valuable.  We sometimes think we are doing everything right and the same as everyone else, or that we’re completely different to everyone else! However, you’d be surprised how many times you’ll hear a new idea, meet new people, or connect with someone who might add value to your business at our Awards. Finally, credibility is built on customers’ trust. And that trust is gained when they see you going above and beyond, presenting your work, being open to changes, taking on board feedback and continually striving to improve. That is what brings you business at and a good relationship with your customers. Becoming a Finalist at the awards is a first step towards that.




In what ways can you assist a potential judge on their Awards journey?

First, I would like to make a difference between previous and new judges. Previous ones are already familiar with the scoring process, the criteria for scoring entries, how to choose categories, and the benefits and format of the Awards. Previous judges usually need assistance for the new programmes that we launch and all the possibilities of cooperation. They are always keen to become a Chair Judge, Ambassador and Partner of Awards International. I can’t count how many judges from the UK or the Netherlands came in the last two years to Dubai just for the Awards Finals, or how many people from the Gulf region and all around the world came to Wembley or Amsterdam. As previously mentioned, people judging for the first time with us want to know more about the whole process – and we can help with that. We also have marketing campaign, ‘’We connect people”, which also proves how we are putting people from all around the world in touch.


What qualities are you looking for in a judge?

There are criteria for being a Judge and it’s very important to understand that not everyone can be part of it. There’s no registration form on the website, but we have an Apply to Judge button, as around 30% of our Judges are Inbound. After our acceptance panel approves the profile, we can send the registration form. The criteria for being a judge are professional experience, length of tenure, education and recommendations from our previous customers.


What are the main benefits of becoming a judge?

It’s all about sharing, learning and meeting new people. We have the most innovative entries at our awards and it’s a two-way street: as a judge, you will definitely learn something new, which you can implement into your organization after the Awards. Also, there are a lot of marketing opportunities, where we will share your participation with our global network. You’ll also have the opportunity to contribute to our Customer Experience Magazine.


We make every effort to ensure you have the information and support necessary for a great Awards experience, whether you’re a finalist or a judge. Whether it’s helping you choose a category, letting you know about all the different opportunities at the event or answering any questions you might have, we’re here for you.



Enter the UK Customer Experience Awards

Book your place at the UK Business Awards

To find out more about judging, contact vuk@awardsinternational.com



Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnJune 10, 20203min2720

It’s not long now until the UK Business Awards, which will be held entirely online on 9th July.

There’ll be finalists presentations, networking opportunities and, of course, the Awards Ceremony itself.

But this year, we’re introducing something new. A series of talks called FASTHELP will be running in parallel with the finalists presentations. There will be 12 of them in total throughout the day, and they promise to give you some extraordinary insights.

We’re living in extraordinary times, and these presentations are a reflection of that. The focus of the talks will be responses to COVID-19, and how each of the businesses can offer a solution of a kind: whether that’s digitalising your experience more, retargeting your efforts, or other pieces of useful advice.


Book your place at the UK Business Awards 2020


Here are the speakers we currently have confirmed:

Michelle Ansell from Douglas Jackson

Marina Sykes from Octopus Energy

Homayoun Dayani-Fard from YWH

Gemma Smith from Strata

Mark Wright from Make More Noise

Fleur Hicks from onefourzero

Helen Pettifer from Helen Pettifer Training

Dr Paul Phillips from Weston College

Jutta Stienen from GUURU

Rossa Malone/Darren Bayney from BT Group & LogmeIn

Peter Milligan from New Generation Leaders 

Basia Szumska-Hare from Capita 
We can’t wait to hear what perspectives all these speakers are going to share. FASTHELP is going to play its part in making this year’s UK Business Awards the most memorable yet. We hope you can join us!