Seventeen-year-old travel agent Adam Stokoe has been ranked as one of the top agents at Hays Travel – a year after the retailer’s mystery shopper programme highlighted him as one of the company’s worse performers.

Stokoe, from Washington, Tyne and Wear, was a first-year apprentice at Hays Travel when he was caught on camera in 2004.

“My tie was slack, I wasn’t smiling. The man wanted information about a summer family holiday and I just offered him brochures. I didn’t even offer him a seat,” admitted Adam.

“At that point, I could have left the company. But I realised I would come up against these issues in any job.

Twelve months on,Adam has turned his performance around.

In the year to the end of October his sales totalled more than £36,000, £14,000 above his target as a first-year trainee, ranking him in the top 20 of Hays’ 193 agents and the top-permorming first-year apprentice.

Adam claimed his lack of confidence was the key problem, so he worked hard on the basics such as smiling, greeting people warmly, building rapport and “seeing myself through the client’s eyes”.

“The mystery shopper is a fantastic programme. You see for yourself where you can improve,” he added.

Hays began using mystery shoppers with hidden cameras more than 18 months ago. The video footage captured is used for training purposes.

Retail staff development manager Beverley Little said: “Adam has developed from a slouchy teenager into someone who is very, very professional.”