A group of ladies of mixed ages and race taking a yoga class

Stevenage Leisure Limited

Stevenage Leisure Limited (SLL), a registered charity, has worked with The WOW! Awards for over 10 years. Having the ‘Wow factor’ embedded into the culture of SLL has boosted the charity’s growth strategy, improved morale and opened up strategic conversations around customer service between frontline staff and the Board.


Stevenage Leisure Limited (SLL) is one of the UK’s leading ‘leisure trusts’. They are committed to delivering high quality leisure and cultural opportunities for all of the community. Working in partnership with five local authorities, they manage eighteen centres across 9 towns, with a dedicated team of over 1,000. Any surpluses generated through their operations are reinvested into the facilities for the benefit of their clients, staff, and most importantly the 3 million visitors to their centres every year.

The challenge

With over 1500 team members across twenty-three sites, SLL is a large organisation spread across multiple locations, making individual staff recognition a difficult task. The community leisure centre wanted to uncover stories of excellence amongst their staff that would otherwise have gone unseen. They also wanted to recognise those that showcased their organisations values; those that went above and beyond the call of duty in providing excellent customer care. Senior management felt a more positive perspective was needed on service delivery to support employee motivation and a more positive workplace.

The approach

Stevenage Leisure initially trialled it at one of their sites and after a roaring success, chose to roll it out to their remaining twenty-two sites – giving all employees access to the programme. A big part of the roll out was explaining how it worked to the staff and doing internal communications around the programme. The WOW! process was linked directly to SLL’s electronic customer satisfaction survey which saved time and effort for the employees and managers to facilitate; this also made it very simple for the public to use.

I can honestly say that the value of The Wow! Awards has been immense and has given such a vibrancy to the individuals and teams at the centres who are working so hard to enrich the lives of our customers. They say ‘I’m just doing my job’; but for me as CEO, it is such a privilege to present them with a WOW Award in front of their colleagues and managers.

Ian Morton

CEO, Stevenage Leisure Limited

The outcome

At ground level, through The WOW! Awards, employee performance reviews have completely changed, as they helped to surface “golden moments” in customer service delivery that would otherwise have slipped under the radar. Having The WOW! Awards running alongside of their complaints procedure enables SLL employees to view their customer service offering in the round – celebrating and repeating company behaviours that customers’ love whilst also adjusting their customer service strategy around any negative feedback.

These learnings also broke down hierarchies as they provided a platform where frontline staff and board members could discuss customer service strategies at board meetings as well as share stories that showcased company values. “The WOW! Awards has transformed the thinking within our business. This brings home to our Board Members what happens at ground level” said SLL.

Stevenage further recognised their staff by having award ceremonies to hand out the certificates. With senior management in attendance, the CEO personally hands out the certificates. Due to the size of the organisation, the CEO wouldn’t often see the employees on the frontline, but this gives him the opportunity to thank the people who are delivering great service day in, day out. “When we see the smile on the faces of the winners, or the tears in their eyes when they have been thanked for doing a great job, that’s when you can really see the true value of a programme like this.”

The results

“In a nutshell, using The WOW! Awards has been a sound business investment“ said SLL. Stevenage Leisure centre have been using The WOW! Awards since 2010. They are in a competitive market and have to regularly rebid for short-term contracts. The WOW! Awards help them to demonstrate the “goodness” of their organisation, and how their staff truly live and breathe their values of providing quality services for all. This in turn continues to help them retain and win new business.If attempted this programme ourselves inhouse, it wouldn’t have the same credibility. “The fact that each nomination is reviewed independently by The WOW! Awards gives it that extra kudos”, Stevenage Leisure added.

Having the ‘Wow factor’ embedded into the culture of SLL, has also boosted the charity’s growth strategy. The organisation has seen an improvement in performance, not just financially, but from a quality perspective and the achievement of many local and national accreditations and awards, not least IIP and ISO14001. “By enabling individuals in key roles, to receive such recognition and feel valued; their smiley, happy demeanours have had such a positive effect on retention and repeat visits”.