Thomas Fairbairn, Author at Awards International


Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnMay 16, 20196min470

Yesterday was the biggest and most successful UK Employee Experience Awards to date!

There was a buoyant mood in the air as business professionals came together to present their initiatives and celebrate the advances made in employee experience this year, and the standard of entries was exceptionally high.


Special mention goes to The Holly Private Hospital, who won gold awards in four categories and the Overall Winner prize for the highest-scoring individual entry. Octopus Energy and Brighterkind also performed strongly, winning two golds each. 

To see the full list of winners, click here.

The event itself stressed the importance of employee experience across sectors. With awards going to organisations ranging from dating apps to government agencies, it was a real chance to attain meaningful new EX perspectives. 

Thanks to the generosity of everyone in attendance, we also smashed our EXA charity raffle record by raising £3600 for Barnardo’s.

Hosted by Clare McDonnell, who praised the finalists for increasing employee-centrism in business, we enjoyed a keynote speech from Ben Whitter (a.k.a Mr Employee Experience) and surprise musical entertainment from The Three Waiters.

All in all, it was a fantastic event.

We look forward to seeing you there next year!



Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnMay 3, 20197min1600

How to Write a Good Survey Question: Top TipsBad surveys are dangerous. If you ask the wrong things, or ask them the wrong way, you’ll get a distorted data set that gives an inaccurate impression of your customers.

On the other hand, if you can enthuse your customers and get them to participate in short, targeted, well-constructed surveys, you’ll build up a formidable knowledge of your customer base and tailor your strategy to serve them better.

But how do you craft that perfect question?




1. Start with the easy questions

You need to put the customer at ease. A couple of simple introductory questions means the customer will relax and be more inclined to answer more complex questions.


2. Less is more

Survey fatigue is real. Always remember that your survey isn’t the only one your customer answers. Many do want to help – but they haven’t got all day. Since their time is precious, don’t waste it with unnecessary questions – keep refining your list of questions until only relevant, actionable ones remain. 

The last thing you want is ‘straightlining‘ – when customers are so fed up with a survey that they give the same answer to everything. It’s much better to have 5 genuine answers than 25 rushed and inaccurate ones.


3. Don’t use ambiguous phrasing

Let’s say I ask: Do you think your car is a pleasant drive?

There’s a couple of things wrong here. In this context, you can interpret the word ‘think’ in a couple of ways – some will think it’s asking for their opinion, whereas others might suppose you’re asking whether they think or know.

‘Pleasant drive’ is also ambiguous – is it referring to the car being good to drive, or the act of driving in the car?

You could improve this question by saying: Is your car pleasant to drive?


4. Don’t you agree that leading questions are terrible?

How to Write a Good Survey Question: Come again?


Ambiguity is normally accidental; leading questions can be too, but they’re also the consequence of unconscious bias. If you don’t stay alert to the dangers of leading questions, you might skew your survey by framing everything so the company looks good . It might massage the ego, but it won’t enable you to help your customers.



5. Read the question out loud

When you read things back in your head, clunky phrasing isn’t always clear. It’s a good idea to read your questions out loud and make sure they sound natural. You want questions that ask the right thing in the right way, and lead to accurate answers from your customers.


6. Put each question in its proper context

You can’t expect your customers to know as much about your business as you do. If there’s important information they need in order to answer, give them that context.

You also need to think about the flow of your survey – structuring it around the touchpoints of your customer journey is often a good approach – so that each question leads on naturally from the last.


7. Test the survey and refine your questions

Your team will have fantastic ideas, but you need to get an outside perspective on it.

A focus group can advise you on phrasing, context, bias, and anything else that’s preventing the answers from being reliable. You can use this feedback to refine your survey strategy going forward.

It’s also worth including an optional box on your surveys when they actually go live, asking your customers for any suggestions.


8. Let customers know how you’re using the survey information

What would you rather hear?

Do you have 5 minutes to answer some questions about our products?


Can you spare 5 minutes to help improve our products with your valuable feedback?

That makes a customer more inclined – if they believe engaging with the survey will improve their own customer experience. Within the survey itself, you can give more precise indications about how the feedback will be used.


How to write a good survey question: overall advice

Ultimately, you’re looking to capture an accurate impression of your customers’ opinions. This means using neutral, natural language that elicits honest, useful answers.

Check yourself for unconscious biases, and ask for outside perspectives on this as well.

It can be a tricky balancing act, but as long as you’re clear what you want to understand, and your questions help you with that purpose, you can get really accurate feedback that allows for continuous improvements in customer experience.


Has your company done a fantastic job with surveys in the past year? If so,  enter the UK Customer Experience Awards today!





Thomas FairbairnThomas FairbairnApril 30, 201910min2940

There’s been a great deal of focus on customer experience in recent years, and rightly so. Smart CX strategies are helping to transform businesses and unlock their true potential.

As the science of customer experience continues to grow in sophistication, companies of all shapes and sizes have been reevaluating their strategies.

This isn’t just about priorities or values: it’s about the systems that ensure your business delivers an outstanding experience for your customer at every stage of their journey.

However, it’s absolutely vital to remember that customer experience does not exist in isolation, as some offshoot of HR. In fact, it’s about bringing all aspects of the business together to re-orientate their efforts around what is good for the customer.

For that reason, employee experience is absolutely integral to customer experience.

Head out of the Cubicle

Employee and User Experience - get out of your cubicle!

Unfortunately, a lot of employees still approach their work in a compartmentalised fashion: I must do this task and make the number go in the right direction.

They don’t always see the bigger picture, and that’s not their fault. Most of the time, they’ve been trained to focus on a specific metric, and they consider their job to be hitting those targets.

Once a company decides to move towards customer-centricity, however, one thing becomes clear: your employees are your greatest asset, and the key to realising any CX strategy.

This is just common sense: staff that are motivated, empowered and happy with their jobs can become your brand ambassadors.

On the other hand, if you treat your employees like numbers, don’t be surprised when they act like robots.

The Evidence

Empowering your staff and creating great employee experience sounds good in theory, but what is the evidence backing up the link between CX and EX?

A Gallup poll offers a striking statistic: companies with highly engaged employees outperform competitors by 147%

And research from the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that productivity in organisations with connected employees tends to improve by 20-25%.

Summing up the research on this issue, Richard Mosley says the EX/CX link is ‘further reinforced by the numerous studies that have identified a strong correlation between satisfied employees, satisfied customers and positive business results, generally referred to as the service profit chain.’


Who Does it Best?

Employee and Customer Experience - the Godfather

Some businesses have understood this principle for a long time, and they’ve spent years enabling their employees to make decisions for the benefit of the customer.

Richard Branson was an early adherent. He famously said: ‘if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.’

But who else delivers outstanding customer experience as a result of a contented, proactive workforce?

Let’s take a look.




This Finnish company produces mobile video games, and generates over $2 billion in sales a year despite having just over 200 employees.

The secret to this success, according to CEO Ilkka Paananen, is allowing each team a great deal of autonomy, thereby developing their own decision-making skills. Paananen says his goal is ‘ to be the world’s least powerful CEO. What I mean by this is that the fewer decisions I make, the more the teams are making. In a dream scenario that means the team is making all the decisions.’



A global leader in CRM and other software, Salesforce have created a loyal and passionate workplace culture.

Jody Kohner, Senior Vice President of Employee Marketing and Engagement, has shared some pearls of wisdom about how employee experience is great for business.

Beyond the product or service on offer, Kohner is convinced that customers ‘didn’t really care what else was out there; they wanted the energy of our people brought to their company.’

When it comes to Salesforce’s success, Kohner says: ‘we don’t take it for granted. We write it down, we prioritise it, measure it and hold ourselves accountable for it. We’ve found if everyone is aligned, we have 30,000 champions of this culture and it fuels itself.’



Customer and User Experience - Bidfood

One of the UK’s leading foodservice providers, Bidfood were the Overall Winners at last year’s UK Employee Experience Awards.

The first main reason for this was their ability to spread values through the organisation effectively. Bidfood streamlined their in-house values into the catchy expression – Care, Share, Dare – which they integrated into all training materials. This enabled them to spread these empowering ideas through the company.

As part of this, employees were encouraged to share their ideas with management, with over 10% of the workforce taking part. Every suggestion was taken forward in some way, and Bidfood have said this helped them stay ahead of their five-year financial plan.




Two Sides of the Same Coin

What do these businesses have in common?

They all realise that there’s no inherent tension between treating employees well and getting fantastic business results. In fact, your employees are the ones who will help you reach those goals. 

All these companies have clear sets of values which employees are acutely aware of, and enhance their decision making by having engaged staff members who believe in the business and want to share ideas to improve it. In short, they treat employee and customer experience as two sides of the same coin.

In the current business climate, customer experience is the best differentiation between brands; people are most likely to remember how an interaction with a business made them feel, and decide about repeat business based on that.

To succeed, you need people on the front-line who make your customers feel great. And the employees that can do this are the ones that feel valued, motivated and whose companies respect and act on their ideas.


If you have an inspiring customer or employee experience initiative that deserves recognition, enter the UK Customer Experience Awards now!