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Using the 10-Foot Rule to Increase Your Likability

Learning Hospitality from the Giants

Whether at a conference, or in one of your branch locations, every interaction with a prospect or client has the ability for him or her to form an opinion of you and your brand. We call these “Moments of Truth”. Every touchpoint is a moment of truth.

In a study published in the Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, it was found that an initial negative encounter predisposes customers to future negative encounters.1 The question then is, how do you create more positive encounters with your prospects and customers?

Sam Walton, founder of Walmart built his reputation in college by greeting everyone he came across. He used their name if he knew them and his approach vastly expanded his network of friends and supporters.

“When Walmart became sizeable enough, Sam realized that it could not offer prices lower than those of other retail giants—yet. As part of his customer service strategy, he institutionalized the very trait that had made him popular when he was a student. He insisted on the “Walton Ten-Foot Rule.”2 Sam said, “…I want you to promise that whenever you come within 10 feet of a customer, you will look him in the eye, greet him and ask him if you can help him.”

Walmart started as a single discount store and in the last 50 years has grown to the largest retailer in the world, with 2018 revenue of more than $500B. When Walmart associates, now more than 2.3 million, come within ten feet of customers, they are to smile, make eye contact, greet the customer, and offer assistance.

When cast members at Walt Disney World are near a guest, they have seven service guidelines: make eye contact and smile, greet and welcome each and every guest, seek out guest contact, provide immediate service recovery, display appropriate body language at all times, preserve the magical guest experience, and thank each and every guest.

At Home Depot, an associate must ask a customer if they need help if they get within 10 feet of a customer. Marriott has their own version where at 15 feet they make eye contact and within 10 feet ask if there is anything they can do to help. Across the hospitality industry, the ‘Zone of Hospitality’ is used to describe the behaviors and actions needed using the 10 and 5 Staff Rule.

Ritz-Carlton, takes it a step further with their Three Steps of Service:

1. A warm and sincere greeting. Practice the 10-5 rule. At 10 feet, acknowledge the customer with eye contact and at 5 feet, greet the customer with “Good morning/afternoon/evening” and a smile. Use the customer’s name after it’s been given whenever the opportunity arises.

2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs. Define customer expectations of the timeline of touchpoints during the customer experience. First remove all the potential dissatisfiers that could displease a customer. Then proactively look for opportunities to create a “small wow” that goes above the customers expectations. It could be something as simple as assisting a customer you may see standing in front of the store directory or looking up at the store directionals.

3. Fond Farewell. Sincerely thank the customer for choosing you and offer a warm good-bye. Again, use the customer’s name once it’s been given. Better yet, consider an after the sale follow-up phone call or thank you note.

Employees at Hyatt are trained that if you embrace the practice, you would put yourself on a path to providing exceptional service and being a great teammate. There are other variations (10 5 3 Contact Rule, 15/5) too, but what they have in common: provide a warm and sincere greeting, anticipate and fill needs, and thank.

In Butler Street’s Become the Only Choice Sales Effectiveness Training, Recruiting Effectiveness Training and Customer Service Training, teams identify the moments of truth where a client (or talent) comes into contact with any aspect of the company or organization so that they can learn how each moment of truth can increase your likability and contribute positively to your brand.

It isn’t enough to just have a rule, or customer service guideline posted on the website, they must be made part of the culture and each person must know specifically how they can create exceptional experiences. Contact us to learn more!

Noor Azimin Zainol, Andrew Lockwood & Elmar Kutsch (2010) Relating the Zone of Tolerance to Service Failure in the Hospitality Industry, Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 27:3, 324-333, DOI: 10.1080/10548401003744792

Nagesh Belludi, (1/7/2010) Want to be more likeable? Improve your customer service? Adopt Sam Walton’s “Ten-Foot Rule”

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