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: