Thomas Fairbairn, Author at Awards International ⋆ Page 2 of 6


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnOctober 8, 20195min3030

DVJ Insights

In partnership with Marketing Week, DVJ Insights have published a fascinating report into the nature of brand growth.

They conducted a survey of brands that have seen their revenue grow (high-performing brands) and once that haven’t (low-performing brands). These companies have varying attitudes on several important issues – and perhaps this explains their differing fortunes.

Let’s take a look at what they had to say on a range of marketing issues.


1. “Sales activation will become more important over the coming year.”

High-performers: 17% agree

Low-performers: 27% agree

The answer here reveals something interesting: top organisations take a more holistic view of marketing. To them. it’s as much about building and growing brand awareness as it is about getting people to buy here and now. Laying the foundations for long-term growth, high-performers attach relatively less importance to more traditional marketing. Indeed, 60% of winning brands believed a combination of sales activation and brand building was integral to success, compared to 49% of low-performing brands.


2. “We focus on lead generation and conversion.”

High-performers: 68% agree 

Low-performers: 53% agree

Balancing short-term and long-term marketing priorities, top marketers still focus on lead generation and conversion. Specsavers’ marketing chief Shaun Briggs sums up the issue: “Without leads we’ve nothing to convert, and without conversion I’m wasting leads. Nail both and I’m delivering optimum short-term results. Of course, if I’m ignoring the longer term when doing this, future leads are likely to be harder and more expensive to acquire.”


3. “Our innovation budget has been cut.”

High-performers: 7% agree

Low-performers: 22% agree

Both high- and low-performers agree that their budget isn’t enough to fully support innovation (73% and 71% respectively), but lower-performers are feeling the pinch especially.


4. “We view marketing as an investment.”

High-performers: 47% agree

Low-performers: 13% agree

This is particularly interesting; this issue contained the biggest difference in opinion across the entire survey. If your firm views marketing as costly and inefficient, you have to ask yourself: is this a false economy? Indeed, it seems like this problem will perpetuate itself: 22% of low-performing brands expect their marketing budget to rise, compared with 50% of high-performers. Without the resources to outwit their competition, low-performers could get left further behind.


DVJ Insights


5. “We work with lots of partners.”

High-performers: work with 6.1 agencies on average per year

Low-performers: work with 3.3 agencies on average per year 

Willingness to seek out niche expertise is key to success, with successful companies using almost twice as many agencies as their struggling competitors.



This report suggests that companies with a dynamic, flexible approach to marketing are more likely to have commercial success. High-performing companies value marketing that develops their brand as well as generating and converting leads. And they’re more willing to use outside help to achieve their goals.

Marketers everywhere: take heed of this report, and use it to your advantage!


To book your ticket for the UK Business Awards, click here

For more Awards International stories, click here.


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnOctober 8, 20193min3620

Last week, we attended the OSX Summit & Expo at the Excel Centre in London. Representing the Customer Experience Magazine, we were there to find contributors to the magazine and customers for our various awards programmes, as well as learning about the latest innovations in customer experience.

At first, it felt like walking into a science fiction movie: there were two robots roving around the conference, taking photos and conducting surveys.


Once we got used to our android neighbours, we started on the main business: meeting, greeting and listening to keynote speeches.

My highlight from the speaking agenda was Mitchell Platt of Growth Tribe, who gave us a whistle-stop tour of the most empowering tools in growth marketing. There were many new techniques to appreciate here, and ones that we’ll certainly be using in the future!

There were several contact centre companies in attendance, which meant that we made some great connections for the upcoming UK Complaint Handling Awards. It was also a chance to generate some interest for next year’s Digital Experience and Customer Experience Awards.

From a judging perspective, we met some very interesting professionals who would make excellent additions to our panels of independent judges. Their passion and expertise in customer experience was truly evident, and I’m sure they can bring a lot of talent to our awards programmes in years to come.

This was also a useful opportunity to make connections from the South East Europe region, particularly business associations from Hungary. As we launch the South East Europe Customer Experience Awards next year, increasing the size of our network is incredibly valuable.

Overall, this was a fantastic experience. It was great to meet other professionals, hear about emerging trends in outsourcing and get the word out about our awards!


To read more customer experience stories from Awards International, click here

For tickets to this Thursday’s UK Customer Experience Awards, click here


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnOctober 7, 20196min8580

At its heart, customer experience is about decency and respect towards others, and we can’t wait to celebrate these qualities on October 10th at the UK Customer Experience Awards.

A lot of this amazing work happens on a small scale: in a shop, restaurant or place of business. And since these CX angels deserve proper recognition, we want to share three stories of outstanding customer service on here.

So if you want to be able to say “I know a really cool CX practitioner but you’ve probably never heard of them”, you’re in the right place! Welcome to the Customer Experience Underground.


The Stove Salesman

Customer Experience Underground - Stove

I was in an appliance store shopping for a new stove, and was looking at a stove that was priced at $1300. While talking to the salesperson he took me to the back of the store and showed me a stove that looked almost exactly the same but was $600. He explained that it was last year’s model and on clearance. While we were talking about the particulars of delivery and such, I asked if he gets commissions on sales and learned that they only get paid a commission on sales that total $1000 or more.

This means that the salesman basically saved me $700 while simultaneously ruling himself out of a commission.

That was when I decided I needed a new television, entertainment centre, and tablet.

In case you didn’t guess, the writer here decided to spend well over $1000 to make sure the salesman got rewarded for his honest efforts. Moral of the story: customers appreciate frankness and can actually buy much more when they don’t feel like they’re being sold to!


The Restaurant Manager

Customer Experience Underground

Six of us went out to dinner before a movie. For some reason, our order wasn’t placed so we missed our show time for the movie. The manager was making his rounds checking on the tables, so we let him know what happened. He gave the whole table a free meal and said if we brought in our receipt from the movies, he would pay for that as well. We weren’t looking for a free meal, and things like this happen – really, we just wanted him to know so it didn’t happen again. We went to the later show and did not bring our receipts back from the movie – but I make sure to tell people about how quickly and fantastically we were responded to.

You can tell how mortified this restaurant manager was – and how much he was willing to do to make the situation better. The customer didn’t want a refund on their cinema ticket; they just wanted their food, and to let the restaurant know about the mistake! The generosity of the manager in the face of this error has made the writer more likely to come back in the future.


How do you like them apples?

Customer Experience Underground

I used to go to a farm every year to get Gravenstein apples. One year I bought two boxes of apples, but forgot to put one of them in the car. I only realised it when I got home. I had paid in cash, so I couldn’t even call the place and ask for a refund on the apples I didn’t take, and I wasn’t going to go back to get them (it’s about fifty miles each way). I wrote it off in my mind as money lost to a mistake.

The next year, my friend and I went back to the farm. As soon as I stepped in the door, the woman behind the counter said, “You left a box of apples here last year!” She let me fill a box with apples and take them. This is someone who saw me only once a year. I was really astonished that she remembered.

You don’t remember this much about your customers without caring about them deeply! Great CX is all about nurturing long-term relationships with customers, and little details like this make all the difference.



This Thursday, we’ll be hearing CX stories from the UK’s top companies at the UK Customer Experience Awards. 

You can book your ticket to attend here

For more Awards International stories on customer experience, click here



Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 18, 20193min3720

The UK Customer Experience Awards will be a magnificent occasion. On 10th October, we’ll be welcoming the UK’s top CX professionals to Wembley Stadium for a celebration of customer experience achievements over the past year.

Presentations will be taking place throughout the day in the VIP boxes that ring around the historic stadium. Then in the evening, the Great Hall will be the venue for the awards ceremony, where the winners will be announced and Heather Small will provide the musical entertainment.

The venue is so iconic, and has so much history, that we want to share the other best moments in the stadium’s past.


1. Queen, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, Live Aid 1985

A strong contender for the UK’s unofficial national anthem, Queen gave one of the best performances of all time during the Live Aid concert in 1985. Are there better bands? Perhaps a few… But has there ever been a better opening to a show than this rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody? I’m not so sure!


2. FA Cup Final, 1953

I don’t know much about football but I hear it’s popular! And footballing geeks amongst you will know that the 1953 final was one for the ages. Blackpool were 3-1 down against Bolton, before an inspiring hat-trick from Stanley Matthews led Blackpool to a famous victory.


3. England vs. West Germany, World Cup Final 1966

We thought 2018 might be a repeat of England’s World Cup victory more than 50 years ago. It wasn’t to be. And that might be because England’s only triumph came when playing on home soil. The Russian linesman. Geoff Hurst. The rest, as they say, is history.



Wembley has seen no shortage of winning over the years, which is why it’s the perfect venue for the UK Customer Experience Awards. To learn from the best and get inspired, it’s the place to be.

The Awards will be held on October 10th. To book your seats, click here.

For more Awards International stories, click here.



Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 18, 20192min3050

OSX Summit & Expo

On 1st and 2nd November, Awards International will be attending the OSX Summit & Expo. Held at London’s Excel Centre and spanning five zones, it will be an extraordinary opportunity to learn and connect.

The different zones are:

  • Customer Experience
  • IT Design & Development
  • Business Process Services
  • Digital Disruption
  • International

OSX Summit & Expo - Networking

We will be representing our sister organisation, Customer Experience Magazine. As always, we’re on the lookout for contributions from inspiring CX professionals looking to share their insights with our wide audience. But we’re also keen to fly the flag for our various awards programmes, demonstrating the power of recognition and the value of winning.

This is a chance to learn from other companies about how they’re enhancing the customer experience – whether through empowering their employees, adopting disruptive new technologies or making the most of international talent.

And with multiple keynotes and breakout sessions throughout the two days, we’ll be able to discover more about thriving in the modern business climate.

We will be exhibiting at Stand 13 on 1st and 2nd October. Book your ticket to visit today! 

To read about our experiences at the B2B Marketing Expo, click here


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnSeptember 4, 20195min4090

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, 20192min4010

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, 20197min7190

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, 20193min3680

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