10 Lessons CEO and Food Network Host Charles Stiles Taught Me


Ever met a man who for a living thinks, breathes and travels constantly to help businesses focus on one thing: the customer experience?  One who attends and speaks at food performance conferences non-stop and also balances a day job of traveling across the United States to film a television show about helping businesses weed out unsavory characters who are ruining their bottom line?

I have, and his name is Charles Stiles.


10 Lessons CEO & @FoodNetwork Host @ImCharlesStiles Taught Me
Photo courtesy of Food Network


Charles Stiles, the Founder & CEO of Mystery Shopper Services (a division of Business Evaluation Services) which is a full-service market, guest satisfaction and compliance audit company that specializes in mystery shopping and guest satisfaction measurement services for nearly every industry. Charles comes from a background in retail; owning several retail gourmet food and gift stores in national malls for over 8 years. He quickly realized the only way to differentiate his stores and stand out from the competition was to develop a consistent service culture and create a process for measuring the success of the training that was implemented. Through this process in 1996, Business Evaluation Services was founded. Today, BES is an International Mystery Shopper Company with over two decades of experience, serving a variety of industries.  Because of this specific and specialized business, Charles was approached by Food Network, looking to create a show about restaurants and what goes on behind the scenes between staff, owners, and customers.  Mystery Diners was born…


I met Charles when I was invited onto Mystery Diners as the assistant of Mr. Nico Santucci — who you may remember from his many appearances on television, radio, and magazine covers as well as a subject of my own writing here for She Owns It!  We spent 2 full days locked in a tiny room for 12 hours at a stretch, filming, talking and laughing while he shared details about his “off-camera” life.


Mystery Diners
Charles, Nico, Mella


The stories Charles divulged were fascinating and I was hungry to learn more about what he had gleaned from decades in business. Today, we get together to share a few ideas, so simple to Charles, but so informative to our ears, eyes, and brains!  Here are his top 10 pieces of advice:

1. Know Your Customers – The first thing that is necessary is to define your target, and then know who your customer is and how they wish to be served. This will be partially defined by the industry you are in and the market you serve.

2. Define Non-Negotiable Service Standards and Set Goals – After you have defined who your customers are, it is critical that you set the right expectations for service and develop non-negotiable services standards with your staff to ensure they understand how your customers want to be served, and what your expectations are for serving them.

3. Consistently Audit Your Expectations – As part of setting the proper expectations, it is also critical that you consistently monitor how your employees are serving your customers to ensure they are representing your brand in a brand-appropriate way.

4. Train Your Employees Based on The Standards – It is not enough to simply define the job duties and expectations of your staff. If you want to grow your service culture you must provide continuous training as well as set goals to ensure your staff is not only meeting your customers’ expectations, but are seeking to genuinely exceed them. Employees who understand the importance of the customer experience are the best at converting advertising spends into Sales.


Charles on set


5. Create Accountability and Incentivize Positive Behavior – The old saying “Do as I say, not as I do” never works. The truth is, “more is caught than taught”. Whether you like it or not, your employees will model your behavior and actions, and not the words you use. It is important that you believe in your own standards and that you model those standards for your employees. As a portion of your ongoing training, it is critical that you both create accountability for your employee’s actions as well as reward them for positive behavior, and being a part of your service culture. When your employees know, you are paying attention and hold them accountable to your standards they are more likely to excel. As they succeed, it is important that they are recognized for their efforts and receive positive recognition.

6. Shake hands authentically – The rules governing a proper handshake are simple. Be firm but not overzealous and don’t prolong the activity. Holding on too long can be misconstrued, and shaking without a firm grip can portray you as weak or disinterested. And this goes for women as well. Try practicing with a coworker or friend, so that you’ll know how much pressure to use and when to let go.

7. Make and maintain eye contact – This is a tough one for some people, but if a person is speaking to you, and you’re looking around the room or at your phone, then you’ll seem distracted. Even worse, you may come off as arrogant, thinking only of yourself. It’s important to look into someone’s eyes to reassure him or her that you’re listening and engaged with the conversation. Just remember to blink once in a while. It’s not a staring contest, after all.

8. Maintain a respectful distance – Have you ever had someone stand too close to you while you were talking, eating, or just waiting in line? Everyone has a comfort zone and maintaining an appropriate distance can help your customers or employees feel more at ease in your presence. A good rule of thumb is three feet. Just think about how it feels to have someone else’s breath on your face. If you can feel it, you’re definitely too close.

9. Offer a genuine smile – Given a choice, most people will interact with someone who is smiling rather than someone who is not. The reasons are simple. A smile is a gesture of friendliness and interest. While you can’t maintain that cheerful grin all the time, be sure to offer one when you first engage with someone. It is certain to make him or her feel more comfortable.

10. Remember your posture – As a final piece of advice, this is possibly one of the most important of all. Good posture is akin to good manners. Standing or sitting up straight is perceived as a form of confidence while slouching or slumping in your chair makes you appear lazy, disrespectful, and uninterested. The way you carry yourself is a sign of who you are. Stand tall, and you’ll always receive more respect.


Charles on KBAK news


What I learned from Charles, is body language is paramount – only second to sincerity. Who you are and how you feel is communicated to people in an instant…so make sure you are sending a truthful message about yourself.  Charles knows it’s critical to not only give folks what they expect from doing business with you — but also give them what they don’t expect…and that is to exceed expectations!

Thanks for the lessons, Charles!





Share :