Thomas Fairbairn, Author at Awards International


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnFebruary 26, 20214min2170

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 FairbairnThomas FairbairnJanuary 15, 20216min3910

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 FairbairnThomas FairbairnOctober 28, 20203min15940

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 FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 22, 20203min19680

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 FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 22, 20202min14890

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 FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 15, 20201min17110

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 FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 9, 20202min12390

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!


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 9, 20202min11980

We’re delighted to announce that we’re partnering with CustomerService.ae for the upcoming Gulf Customer Experience Awards.

CustomerService.ae is the only resource in the GCC region which publishes best practices, expert interviews, in-depth articles and industry reports to enhance customer experience for all types of businesses. It also offers all-in-one social media management, training programs and DIY productivity games for customer service departments.

Aleksandar Ilic, Awards International’s Regional Manager (Middle East) had this to say about the news:

“We are thrilled to have Customer Service AE as a partner for the Gulf Customer Experience Awards 2021. They are the leading publication in the region when it comes to customer service and CX and we couldn’t think of a better partner. After a year like 2020, we all have so many things to celebrate and be thankful for, and I think the categories in this edition of the Awards really reflect that.”

Speaking for CustomerService.ae, Hamza Nasir, Director of Strategic Relations, said:

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Gulf CX Awards where CX professionals can celebrate their achievements, gain insights and learn about the innovation and progress made within the sector. We hope to change the way experiential training programs can shape the future of CX. We look forward to working together.”

You still have until October 22nd to get your early bird deal for the Gulf CX Awards – a saving of 400 AED!

Once again, many thanks to CustomerService.ae for teaming up! We can’t wait to see you in Dubai on February 16th for a memorable celebration of CX excellence!


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnAugust 21, 20203min10350

We are pleased to announce that EME Outlook Magazine will be a Media Partner at the International Business Excellence Awards 2020.

EME Outlook is a digital and print product aimed at boardroom and hands-on decision-makers across a wide range of industries in the region.

With content compiled by our experienced production team ensuring delivery to the highest standards, they look to promote the latest in engaging news, industry trends and success stories from the length and breadth of both Europe and the Middle East.

The magazine is owned and published by Outlook Publishing, who also produce global business titles, Asia Outlook and Africa Outlook, providing a superb platform for advertisers and media partners to showcase your services and place you in the hands of the continent’s most influential people.

“We are thrilled to have EME Outlook Magazine as our Media Partner for the International Business Excellence Awards 2020,” Aleksandar Ilic, Regional Manager (Middle East) explained. “They do amazing work in highlighting the most important issues in business right now, and we look forward to this partnership as we approach the Awards in November.”

We are happy to have EME Outlook Magazine as our new partner alongisde  Customer Experience Magazine and the Cranfield School of Management.


Sponsoring the International Business Excellence Awards means aligning yourself with leaders in business innovation, and supporting the development of ethical business practice in the Gulf.

For more details on sponsoring our events, click here.

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