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“Smile, you’re on Candid Camera”

Business consultant Steve Elsom says a good user experience for customers is vital – but we only have a short window to give clients that all-important positive outcome.

Many of you will remember the popular reality tv series from yesteryear, where the unassuming stars of the show were being secretly filmed as they were put through their paces across a range of scenarios, from customer services to product knowledge. It had a cult following and whilst it often sought to embarrass and fluster the unwitting ‘star’, it served as a reminder that when working in customer services….you are always ‘on show’.

It’s fair to say that the tv show was filmed with an agenda…to make it a watchable show and get viewers to come back for more. That’s the message I convey to many of the businesses that I work with…’make your business like your favourite tv show’….your customers are your returning viewers. Simple.

Now, not every individual or team that I engage with is old enough to remember the ‘smile, you’re on Candid Camera’ tv show, but the majority of them can remember the launch of the ‘mystery shopper’. During my time at Lloyds, I used to look forward to spotting the mystery shopper phone call or branch visit….did we always ‘spot them’? Maybe not…but it kept us on our toes and enabled us to deliver a more consistent quality of service, not just when we believed the mystery shopper to be in town. So, what is the point here?

If you treat every customer with a smile and a genuine welcome…’s a great place to start from. I have written about the power of ‘the first 23 seconds’ in previous articles for iQ but I still find that it isn’t widely recognised. Sit quietly and slowly count to 23…’s actually quite a reasonable amount of time, so my point is, how do you ‘fill that time’ when you are meeting and greeting a customer? We’ve established that a smile gives you a great start (and yes, you can detect a smile over the phone), but what next? Show a genuine interest in the customer, after all, whatever they purchase is, in some way, helping to pay your wages. They should be the ONLY thing on your mind, no phone distractions, no colleague banter, no reason for that particular customer not to say ‘thank you’, and probably think to themselves, ‘that was a great experience’. Will they return? I suspect they will, just like the tv show viewer.

Mystery shopping can be a great tool for exploring how user-friendly a business really is

I created a 2022 version of the mystery shopper for a telephone based business that I am working with. From the speed in answering the phone, to that ‘first cheery smile’, to the friendliness of the persons demeanour, to the genuine interest that they showed in me. Now contrast that to the banal, droll delivery that we are now receiving from many of our biggest brand names, from airlines to retail stores, and utilities to banks. Many of us will have had a ‘poor’ experience, and told at least twelve people….because that’s what you do when these things happen. Conversely, if we have a ‘great experience’ we only tell four people. Perverse isn’t it…but evidence that the numbers are stacked against you….one ‘poor’ experience can wipe out three ‘great’ ones.

So, think about those ‘first 23 seconds’, smile, and see how many of your customers will re-tune into your business on a regular basis!

If you would like to hear how I can help your business, please email me or visit my website

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Steve is a regular contributor to B2B publications, see some of his recent articles for insights into current business news, leadership and much more...