Thomas Fairbairn, Author at Awards International


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 4, 20195min1730

IBM Employee Experience Index How do you quantify the employee experience? That’s what the boffins at IBM have been considering, and the results are fascinating.

You can view the whole text of their Employee Experience Index here.

As we prepare to launch the UK Employee Experience Awards 2020, we want to share the key findings of the report with you. Here’s what we made of it.


It’s really not about table football

Of course, workplace environment matters, but companies should not think that providing flashy perks, pinball machines and artisan coffees constitutes a fulfilling employee experience. In fact, those perks can be used to disguise an unhealthy work culture or other defects in the employee experience.

For IBM, there are five key dimensions to EX:

  • Belonging
  • Purpose
  • Achievement
  • Happiness
  • Vigour

Combining these dimensions to create the Index, IBM shared some interesting results.

Better EX means better, longer-lasting work

IBM conducted a survey of 23,000 employees in 45 countries to see how these factors contributed to a better experience. They also present compelling evidence that higher scores in these five dimensions leads to better work performance, higher discretionary effort, and greater levels of retention. When you look at the results of those with the top 25% highest EX index scores, and compare them with the bottom 25%, you can see the difference in performance.

  • 96% of positive EX workers had good work performance, compared to 73% of those with negative EX.
  • 96% of contented workers put in more discretionary effort, compared with just 55% who had negative EX.
  • 21% of positive EX workers intend to leave their place of work, compared to 44% of those with negative EX.

Feedback, environment and meaningful work also crucial

IBM Employee Experience Index - collaboration In some management philosophies, a notion persists that it’s counter-productive to give employees positive feedback. The evidence does not support this. In fact, just 40% of workers without consistent feedback report a positive employee experience. For those whose managers take the time and effort to give specific, actionable feedback, the EX score jumps to 83%.

Good relationships with colleagues are also crucial. When employees say their coworkers help them out when needed, 77% report a more positive employee experience, compared to 35% working in environments where help is not forthcoming. So it looks like cutthroat work environments don’t bring out the best in your employees!

The work itself must also be meaningful, ensuring ‘that employees’ skills and talents are being fully utilised and there is greater alignment to shared, core values.’ This is especially significant – just 29% of employees who aren’t sure how their work connects with organisational values report a positive experience.

What does this mean for businesses?

This report was very clear in its findings. Almost every factor made a significant difference to those in the top and bottom quartiles, sometimes as much as 50%.  This large variation can be explained by the fact that some companies are involving their employees in decision-making, giving them quality feedback and creating an environment in which workers help each other.

This isn’t just a question of personal and professional fulfilment: better EX policies make a substantial difference to work performance and cut down the costs on recruitment. Put simply, good EX makes better business sense.


For more Employee Experience stories, click here

Entries for the UK Employee Experience Awards 2020 will open shortly. In the meantime, book your seats the UK Customer Experience Awards and UK Business Awards








Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 3, 20192min2160

Worksmart sponsor We are pleased to announce that Worksmart will be a Silver Sponsor at the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020.

“Worksmart have built their reputation by supporting the UK’s leading financial service businesses through the challenges of regulatory compliance,” Julie Pardy, Director of Regulation and Market Engagement, explained. “From Training & Competence to Quality Assurance, SM&CR to Complaints Management, we enable smarter business responses.”

Commenting on news of the announcement, Pardy said:

We’re delighted to be a sponsor at the UK Complaint Handling Awards as it promotes best practice in complaint handling. Our complaints product, Caresmart, helps companies resolve complaints compliantly and in a way which ensures the best possible chance of retaining the relationship with the customer for the future. As such, sponsoring these awards is the right thing to do.

They join a list of sponsors that includes the Customer Experience Magazine, Professor Malcolm McDonald, the Cranfield School of Management, and our charity partner Barnardo’s.

We look forward to seeing Worksmart at the UK Complaint Handling Awards on 5th March 2020.

You have until Friday 18th October to save £100 with the early bird deal – enter today! 

For more details on sponsoring our events, click here


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 3, 20197min3170

Awards Presentation - Customer Experience Awards

Picture the scene: you’ve crafted a compelling written entry. You’ve outlined your initiative well. But everything is still to play for – half your scores will come from your presentation on the day of the Awards Finals.

You’re looking for that winning edge, a way of differentiating yourself from your competition.

At Awards International, a great presentation comes down to two things. At its core, there needs to be a compelling business case; your initiative must have been successful. No amount of flashy presentation skills will be able to hide that from the judging panel.

But it also needs to be memorable and well-articulated.

We’ve seen some great presentations over the years. And we want to share what we’ve learned.


Don’t clutter the slides with text

Things have definitely got better over the years, but some presentations are still guilty of text clutter. Worst of all, we occasionally see presenters reading off the PowerPoint! That is a complete turn-off: it means you’re turning away from the judging panel, and you’re not telling them anything they can’t already read for themselves. Remember: the human brain can process images much faster than text, so using well-selected images can help create a much quicker impression than a paragraph of text.

The slides are there to supplement your presentation. Include the essential points of your initiative, as well as the most important pieces of evidence that substantiate your claims. This leaves room for your presentation to elaborate, providing the fine-tuned analysis that really brings your initiative to life.


Practice it. Then do it again.

Awards Presentation - Practice Your Story The most iconic presentations of modern times – think Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch in 2007 – were rehearsed over several weeks until the speaker could deliver it flawlessly without notes. You don’t necessarily have to do this, though it will benefit your presentation if you do.

Just because you’ve written the text of your speech, that doesn’t mean you’ve finished. You want to have enough confidence in your material to look up from your notes and make eye contact with the judges. That way, your enthusiasm will be much more evident.

Like anything, practice makes perfect.

Tell a story

We are hard-wired to respond to stories. Not only are they more enjoyable than pure information – they make things more memorable too.

Your business has launched an initiative; that means you have a story to tell. You have to locate the initiative in your own company story, and explain how it took your organisation where you wanted to go.

A story doesn’t have to feature romance or revenge to be effective – it just needs to set the scene, develop, then resolve. If you describe your company initiative as a journey, you’re taking the judges on that journey with you. And they’ll remember a lot more of the details when it comes to scoring your presentation.


Address all the criteria, but avoid a plodding approach

Awards Presentation - Address the Criteria It’s essential that you cover all the aspects of the Scoring of Entries document.

That’s what the judges will be using to assess you, so you must give each section proper consideration. There’s nothing wrong with structuring your presentation around each of these criteria: beginning with Business Strategy, moving on to Goals and Objectives, and so on. But your presentation should be greater than the sum of its parts. It shouldn’t just address each criterion, then move on with no attempt to link. The judges, understandably, will view this approach as somewhat pedestrian, and your scores may suffer as a result.

Linking between sections, showing how one leads to another on your company journey, is going to be much more memorable in their minds.


Seek out expert advice

At Awards International, we want every organisation to have the chance to succeed. That’s why, for many years, we’ve been teaming up with Donna O’Toole from August Awards Consultancy. She’s helped hundreds of businesses to realise their potential and get the recognition they deserve, and she’ll be hosting a variety of webinars over the next month. They are:

5th September: How to Create a World Class Awards Presentation (Customer Experience Awards) 

17th September: How to Write a World Class Awards Entry (UK Complaint Handling Awards)

1st October: How to Create a World Class Awards Presentation (UK Business Awards)

We hope you can join these webinars and learn from the very best!


To view Open Presentations and share best practice, book your tickets for the UK Customer Experience Awards and UK Business Awards.

For more Awards International advice, here’s our article on Awards Entry Mistakes.





Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnAugust 21, 20193min2080

On 21st November, we’re holding the second International Customer Experience Awards (ICXA), and we’ve just confirmed our venue!

The event will be held at the Novotel Amsterdam City Hotel in – you guessed it! – Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is the perfect location to host these Awards. It is famous worldwide for its history of trade, and for its Amsterdam Zuid business district, where the ICXA will be held.

The location could not be better – for all our international guests, it’s a 15-minute journey from Schipol International Airport, and a five-minute walk from Amsterdam RAI station. From downtown Amsterdam, it’s just 20 minutes on the Metro.

Located a stone’s throw from the Amstelpark, it has outstanding conferencing facilities, ideally suited to our unique requirements. We have booked 17 meeting rooms and have also booked the capacious ballroom, which can seat up to 500 people for the Awards ceremony and gala dinner in the evening.


Celebrating International Customer Experience

This year, we’re welcoming representatives from 67 companies to the ICXA – a 30% increase on last year.

Our guest can expect to enjoy:

  • A full-day event: Finalists present their initiatives throughout the day, then enjoy a three-course dinner and Awards ceremony in the evening.
  • Open presentations: many companies allow others to sit in on their presentations, meaning you can see how top companies are approaching customer experience.
  • Networking opportunities with CX professionals from all over the world.
  • The fairest Awards: every Finalist receives a detailed feedback report after the event, containing their scores and how they compared to others in their category.

Sponsorship Opportunities

We’re still accepting offers to sponsor the Awards. This is the perfect way to raise your organisation’s profile on a global scale, while associating your brand with outstanding achievements in customer experience. To find out more about the various ways you can get involved, please contact Aleksandar Ilic on 02032860544 or email aleksandar.ilic@awardsinternational.eu

We’re really looking forward to November, and we can’t wait to see you there!

To book your table at the International Customer Experience Awards, click here

For more customer experience stories from Awards International, click here


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnAugust 21, 20194min1020

Stakeholder CapitalismAt Awards International, we’ve always believed in the importance of customer and employee experience. That’s why we organise the UK’s biggest Customer Experience Awards and the Employee Experience Awards.

We believe this approach to business benefits everyone, providing customers with better service, employees with better jobs, and ultimately leading to better commercial results.

So we were pleased to see the announcement from America’s top CEOs, the Business Roundtable, that companies should aim for more than just pleasing their shareholders.

Leaders from some of the biggest US companies, including Amazon, Apple, Walmart and IBM, signed a statement committing themselves to this approach. In this year’s Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, they outlined their vision:


While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders. We commit to:

  • Delivering value to our customers. We will further the tradition of American companies leading the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
  • Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.
  • Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers. We are dedicated to serving as good partners to the other companies, large and small, that help us meet our missions.
  • Supporting the communities in which we work. We respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.
  • Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate. We are committed to transparency and effective engagement with shareholders.

Each of our stakeholders is essential. We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.

A better way

Stakeholder Capitalism - UK Customer Experience Awards

This announcement is a recognition of the changes in business culture over the past decade. As JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon put it, ‘major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term.’

At Awards International, we welcome these changes, but it’s nothing we haven’t been saying for the last ten years! We’re glad that the world’s biggest companies have finally caught on.




To book your table for the UK Customer Experience Awards, click here

For more stories on customer, digital and employee experience, click here




Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnAugust 21, 20192min2660

At Awards International, we were pleasantly surprised to receive a visit from Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday morning.


Jeremy Corbyn Awards International
Awards International CEO Neil Skehel with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn


Visiting our offices at Stevenage’s Business and Technology Centre (btc), the Labour leader came to discuss a range of issues: public investment in SMEs, a ‘green industrial revolution’ and his party’s position on Brexit.

He took questions from a range of business leaders, including our very own Neil Skehel. In particular, Corbyn stressed his commitment to creating 400,000 new jobs in the fight against climate change, increased funding for early-years education and a public bank to fund startups.

It was good to see an MP visiting us and putting the summer recess to good use – rather than chillaxing in Tuscany!





Jeremy Corbyn Awards International


Corbyn was joined by the Leader of the Stevenage Council, Sharon Taylor, and Jill Borchereds, Labour’s candidate for the Stevenage constituency.

We would welcome a visit from the sitting Conservative MP, Stephen McPartland, to hear his side of the story! Who knows, maybe Boris Johnson will show up one day…

We are currently accepting entries for the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020 – enter now

For more news, insight and analysis, check out our other articles





Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnAugust 7, 20196min3290

At Awards International, the integrity and transparency of our judging process is extremely important. It’s why the Independent Awards Standards Council has consistently accredited us with the Gold Standard Awards Trust Mark.

We believe that Finalists want a fair competition, in which the strength of their initiative – not the depth of their pockets – determines the winner.

So let’s take a look at the top 4 reasons that customers can have confidence in our judging process.


1. Our judges are independent

To assess the written entries and presentations, we rely on teams of independent professionals from a diverse range of business backgrounds. They are not employed by Awards International, and have no association with the day-to-day running of the company.

It’s scandalous to think that, at other awards, the judges sometimes work for the company organising the awards! What’s to stop them favouring a bigger client? Commercial pressures will inevitably lead to conflicts of interest, which is why we keep both worlds apart.

Our judges have always been independent, and they always will be.




2. They assess each entry thoroughly

Entrants want to have confidence that judges take the time to read their entry. But the structure of other awards programmes makes this much more difficult.

Let’s take the Engage Awards as an example. They have 21 judges assessing entries over 20 categories. Let’s say they receive 500 entries, and each one takes half an hour to read and score.

That’s 250 hours of judging. Each. Do these judges take the time to assess each entry with the thoroughness it deserves?

This is why Awards International events have a different judging panel for each category. On average, 5 judges will assess 6 entries. Assuming they spend half an hour, each judge has 3 hours to score the written entries – far more manageable for someone with a full-time job.

Presentations on the day of the Awards also count for 50% of the final score. Each presentation is 40 minutes in total – 15 minutes for the presentation, 15 minutes for questions and 10 minutes for scoring. So the overall time a judge spends on an entry is more than an hour.



3. The judges don’t confer

In those 10 minutes of scoring, judges don’t discuss the presentations with each other – they simply write down the scores for each criterion.

The same goes for the written entries – the judges assess these without conferring.

We do things this way because we value our judges for their individual business expertise. In a team environment, particularly a team of 5 or 6, it’s quite common for someone to dominate the conversation and skew the judging outcome towards their preferences. We’d much rather get each judge’s score, then compile the scores separately.

In fact, the chair of each judging panel doesn’t know the winner of the category until a minute before they announce it on stage!



4. The process is transparent

Our judging decisions don’t take place behind closed doors. Most of our presentations are open to other Finalists and attendees, enabling them to learn from the latest and greatest ideas in their field of interest. This also keeps the process honest and accountable.

Because we want every entrant to have the chance to do well, the judging criteria for all our Awards are available online.

And since it’s frustrating not to know why you won or lost, every Finalist receives a personalised feedback report after the Awards. It contains their scores, as well as how they compared to others in their category.


To be fair…

We keep everything above board – we owe it to our customers.

The background of our judges and the nature of the judging process are independent.

And we keep the ratio of judges to entrants sensible, so that every entry is assessed thoroughly.

Fairness is integral to what we do. Enter our Awards and you’ll see for yourself!



We’re currently accepting bookings for the UK Customer Experience Awards and UK Business Awards

The UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020 is also open for entries – enter now

And for more news, comment and insight, check out the Awards International website




Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnAugust 6, 20195min3760

We’re delighted to announce the full list of companies that will be speaking at this year’s Winning With Complaint Handling Conference. 

These six companies all won at the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2019, and they’ll be bringing their award-winning expertise to this event. Each company will speak for 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of questions. 

Book your ticket now!

Here’s what lies in store.




Companies Announced: Capita The outsourcing and professional services firm won in the Customer Relations and Remediation category at this year’s Awards, and their presentation will discuss the use of cutting-edge analytics to find swift, effective solutions to remediation problems.



Three UK 


Winners of Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year, Three UK will discuss the importance of ‘complaint handling heroes who work consistently to raise standards and provide outstanding customer service.’ 

Focusing on how their people-centric culture is helping them become the UK’s best-loved brand by 2022, Three UK’s presentation is not to be missed. 





One of the world’s largest banks, HSBC won this year in the Product & Service Improvement Category. They will focus on fixing the root causes of complaints, and how this preventative approach helped them reduce complaints by 70%.



United Utilities


As managers of the water and wastewater networks in North West England, United Utilities impressed the judges in the Most Improved Complaint Handling – Customer Centric category. 

The presentation will give insights into their Service Recovery team, whose proactive attitude, quick response and willingness to learn help United Utilities turn their complaint handling strategy around. 



Vitality Health


The medical insurer was the Gold Winner in the Complaint Management Process (B2C) category. 

They will discuss how they incorporated customer feedback into improved complaint handling, and how they transformed their organisational culture to be more customer centric.






As Gold Winners in Customer Insight Strategy, Firstsource will share their technological expertise and discuss their partnership with NOW TV. In particular, they will focus on the innovative speech and text analytics they used to gain more precise customer insights. 




Each of these companies brings something unique to the conference; together, they give a comprehensive picture of dealing with customer complaints in 2019. 

At the conference, you can also look forward to:

  • A fully interactive experience – vote on conversation topics and put questions to the panellists using the Slido app.
  • Ample opportunities for networking throughout the day, with four short breaks and one longer break for brunch.
  • Attendees from a variety of economic sectors.

This promises to be a very special event. We look forward to seeing you there!

The Winning With Complaint Handling Conference is on 25th September. Book your tickets here

For more customer service stories from Awards International, click here



Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnAugust 6, 20195min3560

For CX professionals, customer experience transformation can be a real challenge. Changing culture on such a large scale can be like steering an enormous ocean liner, and even the best-made plans take time to implement.

That’s why it’s so important to remind yourself of success stories – companies that prioritised the customer experience and achieved great business results.

This is our top 3.


Customer Experience Transformation 1 – Microsoft

Customer Experience Transformation - MicrosoftBack in the 90s, it seemed nothing could stop Microsoft taking over the world. But as the new millennium dawned, the tech giant seemed to be losing ground. For more than a decade, its stock price didn’t rise beyond its 1999 peak.

Then, in 2014, Satya Nadella became CEO. His priority was to establish Microsoft as a trusted partner in B2B cloud networking systems. And it was a success – by focusing on customer relationships rather than being some faceless corporation, Microsoft earned the trust of the business community. This year, Microsoft stock reached an all-time high.

If one of the world’s largest companies can re-orientate its business model towards customer-centricity, anything is possible!



Customer Experience Transformation 2 – Paymentsense

Customer Experience Transformation - PaymentsensePaymentsense is a card processing company seeking to disrupt the payments market. Realising that CX was where they could out-compete their rivals, they enacted policies that delivered from a customer perspective.

One was 24/7 contact centres. The modern UK economy doesn’t shut down at 5pm, so call centres shouldn’t either. And for non-banking clients, they guarantee setup in three days or less.

Integrating the customer strategy into the overall growth strategy took around 18 months – and the process is ongoing. But the results speak for themselves – customer growth was 19%, revenue grew 18% and profits rose 11%.

These impressive achievements meant recognition for Paymentsense at last year’s UK Customer Experience Awards, when they won in the Transforming the Customer Experience category.


Book your seats at the UK Customer Experience Awards today!


Customer Experience Transformation 3 – Timberland

Customer Experience Transformation - TimberlandThe fashion retailer wanted to create a more personalised experience for their customers, and they achieved this transformation using near-field communication technology.

Although this technology can be used for ecommerce, Timberland opted to do something different – use it for product information. Shoppers receive a tablet in-store, which they can press against products to bring up key details on a clothing item. As customers browse the store, personalisation software on the tablet means the customer receives more targeted recommendations.

Staff members in clothing stores can be helpful, but a sizeable number of customers want to shop without being disturbed. This app is perfect for them – it gives them all the information they need whilst allowing them to browse in peace. And if they do want to speak to a member of staff, that’s still possible.

Amongst other policies, this CX transformation has led to impressive business results – Timberland’s share price is more than double its 2014 level.



Each of these stories can teach us something about customer experience. In a B2B environment, it’s all about establishing strong customer relationships through dedication to their commercial needs. You have to understand customer priorities and work to them – not the other way around. And you need to deliver a personalised experience that gives each customer the specific information and assistance they need.

We’re still taking bookings for the UK Customer Experience Awards. Join the UK’s biggest celebration of CX today! 

For more stories on customer experience from Awards International, click here