Neil Skehel is the CEO of Awards International, an international awards organiser with 12 programmes around the world including in Europe, the Middle East and the UK.
I’ve asked Neil to join me on the podcast today to talk about the launch of two brilliant awards - the flagship UK Customer Experience Awards and the newly formatted UK Business Awards.
In this episode, you’ll discover how the UK Customer Experience Awards will work this year, and what can we look forward to in October - when the awards ceremony takes place.
Neil will also explain how the UK Business Awards will be a really beneficial experience for entrepreneurs and micro-businesses, as he talks through what’s in store for 2021.
Finally, with many people feeling the effects of lockdown fatigue, he offers useful advice on driving yourself and your teams forward in a positive, optimistic manner over the next few months.
Donna O'Toole is CEO of August, she has had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. Seeing first-hand how receiving awards and recognition has motivated teams, solved problems, supercharged brands and raised their profiles, helping businesses to grow and do even more good things for their employees, their industry and their community.
Hi, I'm Donna rattle and you're listening to my exclusive winning awards podcast. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. I've seen firsthand how receiving awards and recognition has motivated teams, solve problems, supercharge brands, and raise profiles, helping businesses to grow and do even more good things for their employees, their industry and their community. In this podcast, I'll be sharing valuable awards, insights, tips, and inspirational stories to make sure that you get the recognition that you deserve, so that you can go on and achieve your dreams. So what are you waiting for? It's time to start winning. Hello, and welcome to another episode of the winning awards podcast. Today I would like to welcome Neil scale back to the podcast for another recording and another lovely chat all about his amazing awards. So Neil Scahill is the CEO of awards international and international awards organiser with 12 programmes around the world, including in Europe, the Middle East, and in the UK. So I've asked Neil to join me on the podcast today to talk about the launch of two brilliant awards this year, the flagship UK customer experience awards, and the newly formatted UK Business Awards. So welcome, Neil.Neil Skehel:
Thank you very much, Donna. Nice to be with you again. The first one, I enjoyed the first podcast,Donna O'Toole:
this one, you're gonna be a regular.Neil Skehel:
That'd be fun. That'd be great. Yeah, I'd love to. So the UK customers rewards just launched it. There is so much to say about that. So much. So much news. So much news. Same with the UK Business Awards, were really pushing the boat out on that one, making a few changes. And, you know, it's because of the times that we're in, Donald, you know, the times, I've seen some people's businesses, websites, they haven't changed. They haven't changed. Have you not change? You know, how can you not be changing your message to people as true about the context? Yeah, and read and respond?Donna O'Toole:
Yeah, there's a lot of change a lot of change in last year. So last year, so let's just go back a bit. For anyone who hasn't listened to Neil's podcasts from 2020, please do go back on the podcast and have a listen, because it was really interesting. And it was really, really generous of you, Neal to talk about what you were going through at that time. And be really honest about that. Because the pandemic obviously hit the awards industry. Lots of changes needed to be made, you had to jump into action and change your life events, which are going on all around the world, to online events. So please do listen to that, if you can, but so now we're here 2021 we thought we were going to launch in no more lockdowns, but here we are in lockdown. And we're ready to go again with some more awards. And I'm guessing some more online events this year to tell us then first about the flagship UK customer experience was what can we look forward to this year? What are you doing? How's it going to work? And you know, what is going on there?Neil Skehel:
Well, like you say, you know, I mean, it's got to be online, it's going to be online. But what was good enough in May, June, July 2020, is not going to be good enough. In October 2021. we've all learned a tremendous amount. And people have been very kind very patient with each other with with with people who run awards with companies. But still, people like me, we want to exceed customers expectations. So the way we're planning on doing the customers moves towards is we're going to be kind of creating a studio effect. So at the finals, we're going to have, like a host throughout the day, are broadcasting from the studio, interviewing winners judges throughout the day, and then dropping in on the live finals, perhaps showcasing a few of the open sessions and and having different presenters and those so you know, we're trying to sort of create a sort of TVDonna O'Toole:
Okay, so I think what would be really good let me just for any listeners who haven't entered the UK customer experience was before but might want to enter this year. It's let me just explain how these awards work and you can jump in as well. So um, so Neil's been How many years have they been? Probably the 13th year this year. Wow. Okay, so I would say you know, someone who's for me, I've been in the industry around a decade, Goodness me. And they have grown and grown and grown every year. And I would say from my perspective, and certainly from what people say to me, they're one of the most popular awards to want to enter in the UK because everybody wants to say that they give their customers a great experience, of course they do. So from a kind of just for anyone listening who hasn't entered them, so this is how you enter the awards, they are open now they opened on the 14th of February. The first part of the entry process is a written entry. So you put your, your great, incredible story forward into a written process that goes off and gets judged. And then if that goes into the final, you will be invited to make a presentation, which will be online face to face, but with judges online instead of in person, to the judges, who will then complete the judging process on your entry and decide the winners. And I should say we talk about that in a lot more detail on the webinars that we will do together in the run up to the awards on the entries on the presentations, but just to give you the kind of format. So usually what was happening, pre pandemic, was then at the awards final day that always was in the last few years was taking place at Wembley Stadium, which was an amazing, amazing, massive, huge event.Neil Skehel:
Went on all day. And then all night. It was we're splitting it this year, we're going to write all day, on the seventh of October and then all afternoon and all evening on the 14th of October. Wow. Okay, and we've meeting Wembley Stadium on Tuesday. So we're either going to be broadcasting live from Wembley, yeah. Or when the finalists are announced, at the end of June, we will also make an announcement about whether we're also going to be live as well with either tables or studio audience or some combination of that,Donna O'Toole:
right? Okay, of course, because, you know, adapting as the, you know, as locked down and the pandemic adapts must be really difficult for you. So you've had to pre plan?Neil Skehel:
Well, I think keeping, you know, keeping, keep just being being adaptable being being flexible, everyone, everyone's sitting here now, we don't know what's going to be happening in four weeks. You know, it's very hard to say what's happening in for four months. But what is happening is that the awards are happening, and that they are going to be fun and got to be amazing. And we had a great response last year had a great response last year, net promoter score in 2019 was like plus 90 was our customer satisfaction score in 2019. was nice. 3%. And it was 87. It was 87%. Yeah, at the UK customer experience awards. 2020. Now, some people might say it's gonna have 6% Yeah, but some people might say, Oh, my God, that's an online awards event that's online. Yeah, really, really, our net promoter is still very positive. So we were delighted with that. But in terms of the change, we're going to try and sort of create a real studio feel that on the first day, really engaging people chat, a call in, you know, in the in, and then on the finals on the at the award ceremony, we'll have the same studio set up, we'll have a studio band. So whether whether we have a live event or not. There'll be live music throughout the afternoon, the evening. Okay, we are going to have an after party for at least, at least 5070 people at the last one who started to stay back afterwards and have a little jam. Yeah. Which was great.Donna O'Toole:
I remember seeing a hot dog dancing around a lounge.Neil Skehel:
Not everybody real? Yeah, not every that was fantastic. Awesome. Yeah. So not everybody wants to do, that's fine. But if you want to do it will be but we'll be their party we want to do. And we'll have the warm up. We'll have cx trend talks we'll have we had some fabulous speakers. Last year, we had Forrest Qualtrics. And of course, we have Frederick held the creator of the Net Promoter system as the keynote. And if you think that was good, you're gonna wait to what we've got lined up for you this year. It's amazing. ButDonna O'Toole:
so yeah, and and so just to say so again, the process is open. Now the deadline is open for quite a long time, isn't it? So it's, I think the deadline for the entries is not until the 26thNeil Skehel:
of June, earlier than last year,Donna O'Toole:
okay, so lots of time. And Neil's giving you a great example here of measuring your own feedback and your customer scores. So that you can actually demonstrate your impact. So I think that's a good tip for your entries. What I was going to say near this last year, what was really nice is because I remember when we talked early in the year when the pandemic started and then later on in the year. And it was really nice that you added categories to the awards, which were to celebrate people who had really gone above and beyond toNeil Skehel:
hear all of our awards this year. All of them work no matter where they are in the world. They are about helping people, economies, businesses to recover. or so in the first place, how we do that is by recognising outstanding achievements, and you can't recognise anything without it being in the context of COVID. And so we have, so we're very much approaching it from a business heroes perspective, or cx in a crisis. So we've got lots of categories for employees, with health and well being lots of categories, specifically around enabling people to showcase the initiatives that they've undertaken, vulnerability has been a big topic, you know, people have been finding it very hard to kind of bridge the remote aspects of sort of some of the more vulnerable settings for employees or, or customers. So the awards have got lots of categories about the crisis about their heroes, and so on.Donna O'Toole:
I'm looking forward to judging. So last year, I judged I think it was, I can't actually remember I judge 70 categories all the time. I think employees are at the heart of everything, I think, yes, employees at the heart of everything at the customer experience awards. And I think I cried about four times.Neil Skehel:
People don't know this.Donna O'Toole:
But that's what I love about these awards is that is the presentations, because sometimes that makes people feel nervous. And they think, oh, my goodness, how am I going to get through a presentation, you know, don't bring my team do I not. And what's absolutely brilliant is you can bring your team to the presentation, you can present together, you can support each other, and you actually get the opportunity to tell your story to the judges. And it makes such a huge difference. So yeah, I was, I was the one thing all emotional, I still want to get my questions now.Neil Skehel:
But you know, it really is a it's real, vivid experience. And it's a great opportunity for people to talk about what they do work to an external audience. And a lot of companies like to get their rising stars to put the best foot forward in front of the judges is a stretch. Yeah, a lot of leaders stand by their teams, but don't stand in front of their teams, they fought them and let them get them, let them go. And I think that's what judges love to see, too. And that's the brilliant thing about the live finals as well. You know, and also across the open sessions, which a lot more than 70% of the company's customers means was choose to allow other people, even the people who do the other presentations in their category to come in and watch them to share share best practices, which I just think is, is that that's the ethos that we're under at the moment, you know, you know, very muchDonna O'Toole:
writing, exhibiting calm, I like the idea of the lighthouse band. Three days to party for me, then, yeah, well, the house band won't be down on the first occasion. I'll be sensible judging the fact that we're going to Wembley, we're goingNeil Skehel:
to be doing it from Wembley, all being well. Fantastic.Donna O'Toole:
I've fingers crossed for that.Neil Skehel:
Well, if we can, if we can then get people to come and we certainly be invited in studio guests. You know, if you're around coming, dropping judge from Yeah. It's on seventh. No, that's fine. We formed a steering Council, we got a bunch of winners, Ben bunch of finalists, and Jad, Katherine Lindsey, Joe Mayer, you know, one and representatives of companies and they said, Look, people, you know, split split is very long day andDonna O'Toole:
well, especially now we've all got Zin fatigue and all the rest of it. It's definitely worth splitting. And it's nice to have a couple of things to look forward to, isn't it?Neil Skehel:
No, definitely. It's gonna be great. The other thing? Yeah, I mean, I couldn't scratch as you keep prompting me, Donna, the, I mean, it's nice to think different.Donna O'Toole:
Yeah, oh, my goodness, give people something to look forward to as well to work towards definitely. We're doing a white paper at the moment. So we're doing some research on the value of winning awards, etc. And one of the stats that came up recently was that employees now value record external recognition, higher than they value a pay rise. Sure, because that, you know, validating what they've been doing and saying thank you and recognising them is now so motivational, particularly when we've all been through such a difficult time. Yeah. And so important.Neil Skehel:
I mean, a lot of people attach famous phrases to Richard Branson, don't they? And one of the I think one of the things he's supposed to say is make your people train your people, give them transferable skills, so that other people want them. Yeah, you know, but the reverse, you should also reverse reverse the reverse, which of course, is that nobody wants them if you don't train them, so yeah. So, again, no, I completely agree. I mean, a lot of About three or four of our staff for dinner charges to my marketing diploma, excellent for them at the moment of marketing.Donna O'Toole:
So moving on then to the UK Business Awards, which you have been running again for a number of years, I know, six years, six years. Okay, so, UK Business Awards have been slightly reformatted this year, haven't they said, Tell us likely.Neil Skehel:
Revolution, it's a revolution. So again, on the theme, you know, I don't know if I've emphasised it enough. But you know, the context that we're in, demands different action. And our campaign this year for our wards is going to be about recovery, helping businesses, people, economies recover. And the strap line if you like, for the UK Business Awards is accelerating UK recovery, and accelerating UK recovery. And our goal is to recognise businesses for the work they have done during COVID to identify the people who have been successful, to identify the people who've survived and to share to share if they allow us to share the what that what we can learn from that with the community. So first of all, we're it's free to enter to micro businesses and startups. There's been a record number of startups in Britain and UK in the last year record numbers of startups from for maybe obvious reasons. But also because actually, it's made a lot more businesses set up online, which is just a it's just an interesting point. Because you know, we've we've all been sort of faced with doom and gloom, but we have done an amazing job as a nation, our government, I hate to say it, our government has actually done an amazing job, you know, we made a mess of some things, but for our economy to only be down 10%. For last year, when we faced the cliff edge in March last year is just astonishing. Only 1.7 5 million unemployed today, in 1983, when Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister, there were 4 million people on unemployed, and the economy was not as in bad shape, then as it is now, in terms of GDP decline. So it's an amazing feat that we've all done, we've all you know, these new companies have set up and seize the day. And so we want to recognise those. And of course, some businesses have done fabulously well. Some businesses have struggled with the demand that they faced, you know, people have talked about supermarkets, but other businesses zoom would be an example. It's not British. But zoom would be an example of a company that's just gone gangbusters. A lot of online companies have gone gangbusters. And a lot of companies that you'd be surprised about online garden centres have gone gangbusters and run out of everything. So there are some very positive things. So we want to recognise those throughout the lessons and share those with everybody. So we've got a campaign running on our website of blogs, and about people who've done great jobs, and podcast, which will be done by our global Ambassador Luke Murphy, MD of integrity cleaning Entrepreneur of the Year 2019. So he's going to do a podcast throughout the campaign where we talked to a meet people and talk about the lessons we can learn. And our business writer, Tom has written a full piece with his five lessons from last year's winners from the UK Business Awards. So Paul Phillips, who is the principal of Weston college, one last year, recently got a CV, and he's just a fabulous guy's got so much to say about, you know, that the current situation and what they've done. And so we've got some great lessons from him. So sharing the lessons with everybody, so it's, it's free to enter for micro businesses and startups. There is also a category called a UK customers Choice Award, which is free to any business to enter, and it will the winners will be announced at the awards on the eighth of July, there will be gold, silver, bronze, all you need to do is post your logo, company name and share with your fans and customers and ask them to rate your customer rate your serve rate your company rate your company as simple as that one to 10 rate your company and leave a positive comment leave the recommendation, because it's the quality score, which is the number of points from your ratings divided by a number of positive comments is a bit complicated, but that determines your quality score. So that will determine the winners, but it's free to enter we've already got over 300 entries going to be enormous and we've only been open for 10 days. So these I don't know where these people have heard about the award. But all of a sudden they have we had an entry from Chelmsford, we've got one from lot one from Chelmsford, what's the place in the West Country, Cheltenham? We've got one we have just Northampton. We've got one from Newcastle. We've got one from Edinburgh. I heard these people here, I don't know, but theyDonna O'Toole:
shot yesterday.Neil Skehel:
That's what it is. So so we've got all these you know, and and, and there are also opportunities for larger companies to enter. So doing something, which is giving people the opportunity to get the PR to become an award winning company, which gives them the marketing collateral to then boost their business. And Luke will tell you how he's used the awards to help spur him on and help his business grow. You know, it's what we're doing. So it's free, get your award winning, build your business, learn the lessons, and we've got some great lessons. So that's what it is. And the judging will be online. And there will be an award ceremony. As I say, on the eighth of July, soDonna O'Toole:
Love it, love it, you're jumping on the entrepreneurs, revolution, Renaissance. You know,Neil Skehel:
those are many good things to say we've got partners all over the show got some lovely partners at network B to be a Cranfield School of Management, all of these people interested in enterprise got a great partner in a company called the future shaping media company, which is all about innovation. And obviously, you know, a lot of a lot of the entry is going to be about Digital's and we've got the four main categories, business heroes, industry heroes, it's all about the heroes of COVID.Donna O'Toole:
Fantastic, how exciting. I'm really looking forward to that one. So okay, so it's still a tough time for businesses. Yeah. And we are still feeling a bit of lockdown fatigue, and hopefully we're going to come out of it. But it sounds like there's a lot to look forward to this year. So what would be your last word. Now, your final bit of advice for businesses, entrepreneurs, teams, employees, anyone at the moment finding themselves in the world of work and business and juggling the homeschooling and you know, everything going on, how can they stay positive,Neil Skehel:
I've got a lot to say. I mean, my first thing would be to businesses, business people, would be business owners, managers or businesses, which is just make sure you understand what's working, if you've survived, make sure you know what's working. Because you have to unleash that and invest in that. And don't think it's just the old thing that was working, because it isn't working anymore. In most cases. For us, what we used to do is not working anymore, we've had to change and we've got to change again. And that would be my second point, which is that we don't know where we're going to end up yet. So we got to stay agile, go stay on our feet, you know, we don't know where we're going to end up yet. So it's going to carry on, it might be a bit stressful, it's going to carry on. So don't take your eye off the ball. And in particular, don't take your eye off the ball with your people. Because, again, what you used to do for your employees in your offices, and what what you think is happening with your employees may not be happening. And I've got a couple of examples that come to mind. My, I know someone who's his teacher, and after the teachers are in the school teaching or number of them are the headmistress and the number of them, and most of the rest of the teachers are working remotely. But this could only happen after a year or so. Which is that they're developing two completely different cultures in their workforce. there's a there's a, there's a there's a chat, there's a class, in the building, who are having conversations, who are building up a culture, and there's a class, if you like, the remote, we're building up a culture. And those are things which we wouldn't have thought of. Another example is I know someone who's working in a hospital, and they're working in bubbles, so they only work so the employees do not cross over these bubbles. Right? And they've quit, the bubbles are becoming, you know, business units and or, or teams, they're becoming teams. And those teams are forming norms. And those teams are actually becoming silos, and they're starting to behave differently towards each other. And these are the kinds of things that are unexpected consequences, you know, and some of the teams that like each other, for example, or some of the teams are competing with each other all of a sudden, so new dynamics are coming that we wouldn't have thought about so you have to keep listening you have to keep watching. But I would say to your first point point which is share a positive message I write down every week on a Wednesday morning I attend a local networking meeting and I like to start the meeting with some positive news. And I take my time to just think on a Tuesday night before I go to that meeting to write down some positive things to share a positive message and I think we all need to take a cut make a conscious effort to do that. Because you know, sometimes it is quite hard to remember the so much positive stuff around. So that would be those will be a few tips. I think that's pretty good. Like Donna,Donna O'Toole:
I completely agree with you now and I think it's all infectious, isn't it? It's positivity breeds positivity. And that's about it. Because excuse the pump is you know, laughter is infectious. And I want to I'm very much like that, you know me I'm positive.Neil Skehel:
You're absolutely right. A positive person in a room can change the mood.Donna O'Toole:
Yeah, completely. And last year when when we started all of this, and everyone was about to change, I think, when I first spoke to everyone, you know, around in the industry that it was a bit of shock. And then after a while, it did start getting positive as people could see the change could be a really good thing. Yeah. So you know, like to say, we don't know what the future holds, but there's got to be some good stuff coming through. And we can be those change makers that you know, everybody's got the power, haven't they? Yeah, so Okay, well, I'm really excited about the awards this year, and looking forward to judging and looking forward to hearing some more great stories. Looking forward to getting to know some more entrance, which is always brilliant. So please, listen out for our webinars, which we'll be announcing in the run up to the various awards coming up so they can help support people to enter the awards as well. If anyone's got any particular questions that they want to ask Neil, about entering the customer experience awards, all the UK Business Awards will pop a link in here so that you can you can have a look at that or please get in touch with us. You can email Hello at crafted by Auguste and ask us any questions and we can put you in touch as well. Okay, Lovely. Lovely to talk to you today. Neil, thank you for sharing all your advice and tips. And I hope well, thankNeil Skehel:
you for having me, Donna. It's always lovely to catch up. Yeah, and I look forward to the next one. We'll see what we've got to say then. Yeah, exactly.Donna O'Toole:
Thank you. Thank you for listening to this episode of my winning awards podcast. If you enjoyed it or found it helpful, please share it on Twitter and LinkedIn. And if you have any questions, please head over to crafted by auguste.com, where you can find out more about winning awards and contact me. On the website. You can also take our free awards test, which will identify your award strengths and tell you how likely you want to win. I really hope you've been able to take away some ideas today so that you can go ahead and win awards have an even bigger impact on the world and achieve your dreams.