Thomas Fairbairn, Author at Awards International


Thomas FairbairnJune 9, 20215min38470

EU citizens will be pleased to hear that a vaccine passport is not far away. 

Although certain European countries have already issued passports, the EU Commission has completed its procedures for the launch of the continent-wide certificate, and it’s now up to member states to implement it in their countries. And this will be happening in all member states by July 1.  

 “When travelling, every Digital Green Certificate holder will have the same rights as citizens of the visited member state who have been vaccinated, tested or recovered,” said the Commission.  

 The certificate, issued digitally or in paper form, contains information on when the vaccine was administered, who manufactured it, and other information that border agents should know. It’s hoped these documents will enable widespread travel across Europe once more – without the need for quarantining or testing.  

For our European finalists, this will be welcome news. But what about the UK?  

Well, the NHS app currently has a feature that shows your vaccination status. But there aren’t many countries that accept this at border control.  

Over the weekend, former prime minister Tony Blair advocated for comprehensive biometric passports, but he faced a lukewarm reception from the British media. In his interview with Blair, the BBC’s Andrew Marr condemned the plans as “unworkable” and “ID cards by the back door.”  

There has also been concern about what vaccine passports mean for social inclusion. Susan Michie, a health psychology professor at University College London, said, “the idea of vaccine passports when not everyone has been offered the vaccination and when there are disparities that have not been adequately addressed is very problematic. It is likely to increase social divisions between different sectors of society.” 

The UK government will likely require proof of vaccination for large live events, such as music festivals, but not for smaller-scale venues like pubs. And there are no signs yet that a comprehensive vaccine passport, such as the one being issued in the EU, will be official policy in Britain.  

What do you think about this? Do you believe vaccine passports are a sensible use of digital or are they unfair? Email thomas@awardsinternational.com with your views!  

We’re currently in the booking phase for the International Digital Experience Awards – get your tickets now! 












Thomas FairbairnJune 9, 20215min23620

Last weekend, finance ministers from the G7 reached a historic deal on global tax policy. 

At a summit in Cornwall, they agreed to close loopholes that allow multinational corporations to massively reduce their tax bill. Historically, organisations have achieved this by headquartering corporations in a low-tax economy – but the new deal would require companies to pay taxes in the jurisdictions where they make their sales. 

The G7 accord also pushed for a global minimum corporation tax rate of 15%, which aims to end the “race to the bottom” that has taken hold in recent years. With such a minimum in place, it would no longer make sense to headquarter operations in places like Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. 

This news is a victory for global tax reform campaigners. They have long argued that we need international co-operation to ensure that companies pay their fair share and make proper contributions to post-pandemic rebuilding. But experts are questioning whether this truly marks the end of the “zero tax” era. 

After all, this deal was only agreed upon by G7 member states. They still need to convince the G20, who are meeting in Venice next month, and after that, there remains a steep hill to climb before global consensus becomes a reality. 

If the deal goes through, what will it mean for business? Well, for most, it won’t make a difference: ordinary SMEs and even larger corporations tend to pay the appropriate level of corporation tax already. The companies hit would be the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple: companies with a global presence that can shift their profits around the world. Whether they will pay more and whether the proposed changes negatively impact consumers through higher prices remains to be seen. Nevertheless, last week’s G7 accord is a major step forward. 

One thing is certain: the business landscape is shifting, and it’s more important than ever to stay up to date on the latest developments. Book your place at the UK Business Awards to find out what the country’s top organisations are up to! And remember: there’s a discount if you book your place before June 21! 










Thomas FairbairnFebruary 26, 20214min15980

Awards International is saddened to announce that its co-founder and former chairman Don Hales has passed away.

A titan of the awards industry, Don passed away on Thursday from complications resulting from heart problems, leaving behind his beloved wife Marian, their three children, and eight grandchildren. He was 78 years old. 

Don has been a familiar face to many attending Awards International events since he joined CEO Neil Skehel in founding the company in 2008. 

At that stage, with a career in financial services under his belt, Don had already established himself as a leader in the awards industry, having founded the National Sales Awards in 2007, then the National Customer Service Awards after joining Quest Media. 

Having founded Awards International together with Neil, the pair introduced flagship global Awards International events including the UK Customer Experience Awards. 

One of the most important awards programmes they founded was the UK Business Awards, which have been known as ‘The Dons’ for many years, in honour of his passion for the industry.

 The 2021 edition of The Dons recently opened for entries, and this year’s event – the first without Don himself – is set to be an emotional one.

Outside of his long professional life, Don was a devoted family man who loved spending time with his grandchildren and enjoying a round or two of golf with friends. 

Londoner Don was also a vocal fan of Leyton Orient FC – and wasn’t afraid to let anyone know about it! 

Paying tribute to his colleague and co-founder, Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: 

Our hearts are broken to be saying goodbye to our much-loved friend and colleague Don.  We had a lot of fun working together over the years and we were never short of innovative ideas with him around. He was an inspiring professional, a fantastic writer, and a wonderful person to spend time with.  

Anyone who knew Don knows what a friendly, positive person he was, with a keen eye for business and a love of awarding best practiceWe spent a lot of time together in the office, and on the golf course too, and I’ll have many, many great memories of him! He will be missed by all of us at Awards International, and we offer our deepest sympathies to Don’s loving family at this difficult time.


Thomas FairbairnJanuary 15, 20216min37520

As organizations seek to ensure success, an increasing number are adopting customer experience as the cornerstone of sustainable return on their investments of time and money. With interest in customer experience on the rise, the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2021 by dramatically expanding its role as the trusted independent professional association. CXPA is committed to equipping and empowering its members with the knowledge and skills to lead organizational customer experience strategies.

CXPA is uniquely qualified to be a trusted advisor on customer experience due to its status as a consensus-based nonprofit organization. Founded in 2011 in Boston, CXPA has grown to become a worldwide community of over 40,000 CX advocates in more than 70 countries worldwide. Since 2014, it has issued the Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) credential, a vendor-agnostic professional certification that establishes a common framework for assessing CX knowledge. CXPA is led by a Board of Directors drawn from leading organizations across the globe, including 2021 Officers and newly elected Board members:

New 2021 Board Members

  • Jayalakshmi Sudarshan, CCXP, Customer Experience Leader, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, India
  • Mark Ratekin, CCXP, Global CX Principal Director, Confirmit
  • Mark Slatin, CCXP, SVP Director of Client Experience, Sandy Spring Bank
  • Roxie Strohmenger, CCXP, Vice President, Customer Experience Strategy, UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group)
  • Stacey Nevel, CCXP, Voice of the Customer Director, Prudential Financial

2021 Board Officers

  • Chair: Barbie Fink, CCXP
  • Vice Chair: Nancy Porte, CCXP, Global Customer Experience VP, Verint
  • Treasurer: Tabitha Dunn, CCXP, Chief Customer Officer, Sweden
  • Immediate Past Chair: Annette Franz, CCXP, Founder/CEO, CX Journey, Inc.

“CXPA members are customer experience thought leaders who come together to support each other in sharing ideas and information that help strengthen and advance customer experience practices in every sector around the globe,” said Barbie Fink, CCXP, CXPA 2021 Chair.

Recent CXPA priorities have included adopting consensus definitions to eliminate confusion about key terms, including:

  • Customer Experience (CX) refers to the perception that customers have of an organization – one that is formed based on interactions across all touchpoints, people, and technology over time.
  • A CX professional is a catalyst who enhances an organization’s results by understanding, designing, and improving experiences across the entire customer relationship.

Additional definitions and advice for organizations seeking to utilize customer experience as a strategy can be found at http://www.whatiscx.com.

During 2020, CXPA welcomed over 10,000 new social media followers and launched new member Networks in Dubai, India, Australia, United States and Canada. It began offering the CCXP examination through online remote proctoring, and surpassed 1,000 certified individuals. After extensive member listening, its Board adopted a new mission: “We support CX professionals to share, learn, inspire, and grow throughout their entire career.”

Key 2021 initiatives include building bridges between the CX community and institutions of higher learning, developing guidance to help CX professionals develop and execute CX strategy in accord with community consensus practices, and celebrating CXPA’s 10th Anniversary, anchored by CX Day on Tuesday October 5, 2021. CXPA has also introduced new membership options to better serve the varying needs of organizations, offering both individual and team memberships from only $225 per year. More information is available at https://www.cxpa.org/joincxpa .

“As we enter 2021, I am filled with optimism and hope because of the vibrant and supportive CXPA community that is committed to ensuring customer experiences that deliver better results for companies and their customers. When customer experience professionals are empowered, good things happen,” said CXPA Chief Executive Officer Greg Melia, CAE.


About the CXPA
The Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) is a global non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of customer experience professionals. It provides customer experience professionals with educational and networking opportunities to help them succeed, and facilitates the industry-wide advancement of the discipline of customer experience through the globally recognized Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP). For more information, visit http://www.cxpa.org.


Thomas FairbairnOctober 28, 20203min46050

On 21st October, Awards International hosted a wonderful 4th edition of the Gulf Sustainability and CSR Awards!

At the event, the region’s top companies detailed their work to improve environmental and social responsibility in the Gulf – and we were delighted to hold the Awards Ceremony live in Dubai for the first time since the pandemic began. 

Click here to read the full list of 2020 winners.

Over two days, we held the Awards in a hybrid format: presentations took place online, then the next day we enjoyed a live ceremony. Massive congratulations go to Splash, who amazed the judges and walked away as the Overall Winner.

Our Regional Manager for the Middle East, Aleksandar Ilic, did a fantastic job of hosting the Awards, and was delighted with how the day went: “It was wonderful to  hold the Awards Ceremony live in Dubai again. Thank you to everyone for getting involved in such an inspiring day!”

Gathering in person for competition was really special, but this was also about affirming a shared commitment to the planet. In partnership with Goumbook, we planted a tree for every guest at the Awards – and we planted many of those trees during the ceremony itself!

Thank you to everyone – finalists, judges, sponsors and more – who helped make this event so special. It’s inspiring to know there are so many people who care about this planet, and are working hard to protect it for future generations. Thank you for doing such great work! 

We very much hope to see you at next year’s edition of the Awards – we hope you can join us for more competition, recognition and celebration! 



Thomas FairbairnSeptember 22, 20203min44750

We’re delighted to be joining with the Collaboration Network for an upcoming webinar!

Held on 24th September at 2pm, this week’s Collaboration Webinar will examine how firms can achieve excellence in complaints handling during challenging periods. We’re pleased to be working in association with the Collaboration Network for this one, as it promises to be an engaging and insightful session.

This session will be hosted by Michael Hill, Complaints Management Ambassador to the Collaboration Network and Chair of Judges at the UK Complaints Handling Awards. Michael is one of the foremost leading experts in complaints handling with nearly 30 years experience and will be setting the scene for us with his own insights.

Neil Skehel, CEO of Awards International, will be providing an update on the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2021 and how firms remain keen to demonstrate excellence in customer care throughout turbulent times.

Our Guest Speaker on this webinar will be Ciaran Harkin, Managing Director at QASSS who won two awards at the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020 including Silver in the category of Best Complaint Handling. Ciaran will give us an insight into how QASSS achieved this and what activities they are undertaking to help raise standards in customer support.

This will be followed by an interactive session ran by our in-house experts, Caroline Wells and Sarah Lawrence. We will debate questions, utilise breakout sessions, run a poll and get guidance on top tips for a best in class approach to complaints handling.

You can register for free here


Thomas FairbairnSeptember 22, 20202min41970

In such a transformative year, it’s essential for CX professionals to know the latest quantitative data so they can understand the scale of change in the industry. 

That’s why Awards International teamed up with Ipsos for their latest piece of research, CX Voices: 2020. It’s a wide-ranging, “state of the nation” report, shining a light on the various ways that CX professionals have responded to the pandemic. 

And we’re pleased to say that CXM will be holding a free webinar for anyone who’d like to hear about this research in-depth. This will be held from 10:30 – 11:15 (UK time) on Tuesday 6th October, as part of our CX Day celebrations. Click below to register!



The format for the webinar will be:

Introduction: Jamie Thorpe (Ipsos)  and Neil Skehel (Awards International) – 5 mins

CX Trends: Jamie Thorpe  – 15 mins

CX Voices: Katherine Shipton (Ipsos) – 20 mins

Q&A and wrap: Jamie Thorpe and Neil Skehel – 5 mins


You’ll have to come along to discover why Ispsos have referred to this report as “a tale of two halves”. It gives a nuanced picture of the challenges and opportunities faced by CX professionals during the pandemic – and is an invaluable resource for anyone in the customer experience space. 

See you on 6th October! 






Thomas FairbairnSeptember 15, 20201min33890

We’re delighted to announce that we’re partnering with Fintech Finance for the upcoming International Business Excellence Awards.

Fintech Finance showcases the most up to date news coverage, and produce engaging content throughout all areas of the financial industry. By producing unique Virtual Arenas three times a week, as well as video episodes which look at a range of topics within financial services, they bring key topics and updates into the financial arena.

With many different FS companies due to present at the Awards, it’s a perfect fit! As our Regional Manager (Middle East), Aleksandar Ilic, put it: “Fintech Finance will be an outstanding partner for the International Business Excellence Awards and we look forward to working together, spreading the word about financial excellence!”

The entry deadline for the International Business Excellence Awards is September 17th – enter now!

And if you’re interested in becoming a judge, click here!


Thomas FairbairnSeptember 9, 20202min40020

The Gulf Customer Experience Awards is going to be a very special day. After a long period of lockdown, we can’t wait to hold a live Awards Ceremony again!

But there’s more good news! We’re partnering with CXO Insight ME, the most trusted source of strategic intelligence for IT decision makers in the Middle East.

Backed by media experts of the highest order, CXO Insight ME offers incisive perspectives on current and emerging trends shaping the regional technology landscape. They deliver unmatched news coverage and in-depth analysis of the technologies and opportunities that should be on the radar of IT professionals and decision makers looking to address today’s business problems. With real-world insights into technology vendors, products and services, they help the C-suite and thought leaders make prudent IT purchase decisions.

Whether promoting a new product, creating brand awareness or generating sales pipeline, CXO Insight Middle East offers a wide array of digital advertising tools to engage with your target audience throughout the buying cycle.

Aleksandar Ilic, Awards International’s Regional Manager (Middle East) commented on the announcement, saying:

“It’s a pleasure to have CXO Insight ME as a partner for the upcoming Gulf CX Awards. As a world-class intelligence source, they help IT professionals stay ahead of the curve, and we’re big believers in the importance of technology in advancing CX. I look forward to us working together!”

There’s still time to get your early bird discount for the Gulf Customer Experience Awards: until October 22nd, you can save AED 400 on your entry!