How to Increase Your Likeability: The 10/5 Rule

Air India Maharajah illustrating the 10/5 Rule of Customer Service The 10/5 Rule, also known as the “Zone of Hospitality Rule,” is a well-known guiding principle for extending courtesy to customers in the hospitality, healthcare, retail, and other service industries. The rule instructs,

  • Whenever a staff member is within ten feet of a guest, the staff member must make eye contact and smile to greet the approaching guest.
  • When a staff member is within five feet of a guest, the staff member must also look the guest in the eye and acknowledge him/her with a salutation such as “Hello” or “Good Morning, Mrs. Smith.”

Many companies have adapted versions of the 10/5 Rule to improve friendliness, customer-service, and responsiveness. As I’ve written in a previous article, Walmart’s iconic founder Sam Walton instituted the ‘Ten-Foot Attitude’ and 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.” At Disney theme parks, “cast members” are encouraged to make eye contact, smile, greet, and welcome each guest as part of Disney’s famous “Seven Service Guidelines.”

Courtesy is an Influence Technique

'How to Win Friends & Influence People' by Dale Carnegie (ISBN 0671027034) As expounded in Dale Carnegie’s classic self-help book How to Win Friends & Influence People, we are much more likely to feel warmly toward any person who sincerely makes us feel good about ourselves.

Likeable people not only succeed in their personal relationships, but also tend to be more successful at the workplace. Indeed, highly competent but unlikeable employees do not thrive as well as their moderately competent but more likeable peers.

Idea for Impact: Be courteous. Even simple acts of courtesy (making eye contact, smiling more, listening, showing sincere interest in others, for example) work as an influence technique because folks are much more likely to do things for—and accede to requests from—people they perceive as likeable.

Serve with a Big Smile

Service with a Big Smile

This research from Penn State suggests,

  • The bigger a service-employee’s smile, the happier a customer. This comports with other research that has shown that the powerful emotions triggered when someone smiles at you and you smile in return can change your brain chemistry. You not only feel more optimistic and motivated, but also tend to remember such happy occasions more vividly.
  • Genuineness of the service-employee enhanced the customer’s perceptions of friendliness, but only influenced customer satisfaction when tasks were well-performed and the customer’s major expectations of the product/service were met.
  • Appearing inauthentic and fake-smiling undermined the assumed benefits of “service with smile.” Customers can spot insincerity in a smile when they see one. Inauthentic, robotic, and feigned friendliness can be a turn off for customers.
  • Given that frontline service-employees represent a company to the public, mandating that employees must smile and appear friendly during their interactions with customers can backfire. The researchers suggest that companies hire happier employees and engender a work-environment that encourages genuine smiles and empowers employees to provide authentically pleasant customer service.

Genuine vs. Fake Smiles: The Science behind Your Smile

Genuine vs. Fake Smiles: The Science behind Your Smile

You can spot the difference between a genuine smile and a fake one. A genuine smile is also called the “Duchenne smile” after Duchenne de Boulogne (1806–1875,) a French neurologist who studied the association of facial expressions with the soul of humans.

  • Scientific research has shown that Duchenne smile involves the voluntary contraction of the zygomatic major (the muscle that raises the corners of the mouth) and the involuntary contraction of the orbicularis oculi (the muscle that raises the cheeks and produces crow’s feet around the eyes.)
  • In contrast, a fake smile involves the contraction of just the zygomatic major since the orbicularis oculi cannot be voluntarily contracted. A fake perfunctory smile is nothing but a manifestation of obligatory courtesy and politeness rather than one of inner joy.

Further, scientists believe that the two types of smiles are actually controlled by two distinct parts of the brain: the Duchenne smile is controlled by the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain) whereas the fake smile is controlled by the motor cortex.

Idea for Impact: Serve with a Big, Genuine Smile

  • Fake Smiles A genuine smile is an index of your happiness. Put in a little more delight into your smile. Reach out to others and give a little more of yourself by serving with a bigger smile.
  • Don’t smile excessively. Although people like smiles but are rather distrustful of excessive smiling. Unless the source of your cheerfulness is genuine and noticeable, people will judge that your undue smiling is feigned—or that you’re smiling distastefully at some deficiency on their part.
  • Engage your eyes for genuine smiles. If you’re forcing yourself to smile, you may be able to organize your lips and teeth into a smile, but you’ll not be able to get your eyes to coordinate.
  • Try to smile even when you are feeling cranky or grouchy. A simple smile can relax your facial muscles and short-circuit your bad mood.

Don’t be Rude to Receptionists and Support Staff

One of the quickest ways to fail in an interview is to ignore, be discourteous, or be disrespectful to receptionists and support staff.

Some job candidates believe that they do not need to be at their best behavior in front of support staff, and then “turn it on” for the professionals who will actually interview them.

Rude to Receptionists and Support Staff It is a common fallacy to assume that the relative position of a person on the corporate ladder is predicative of how much influence that person has in the organization. Rank, experience, and influence do not always correspond. People with influence are those whose opinions are important — not necessarily because they rank high on the org chart, but because they have acknowledged expertise, experience, or because of their association with people of authority.

Job candidates: a condescending attitude could cost you a job offer. Be courteous around everyone you meet and watch what you say. Assume that every person — the receptionists, assistants, and support staff — may have an input into the hiring decision. They will convey their negative perceptions to the hiring managers.

Want to be more likeable? Improve your customer service? Adopt Sam Walton’s “Ten-Foot Rule”


Walton Ten-Foot Rule

Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart Stores Sam Walton, Walmart’s iconic founder and perhaps the most successful entrepreneur of his generation, demonstrated considerable charisma, ambition, and drive from a very young age.

Sam was a committed student leader when he attended the University of Missouri, Columbia. One of the secrets to his reputation in college was that he would greet and speak to everybody he came across on campus. If he knew them, he was sure to address them by their name. In a short time, he had made many friends and was well-liked. Small wonder, then, that Sam triumphed in nearly all the student elections he entered.

From his bestselling autobiography, “Made in America”:

'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835) I had decided I wanted to be president of the university student body. I learned early on that one of the secrets to campus leadership was the simplest thing of all: speak to people coming down the sidewalk before they speak to you. I did that in college. I did it when I carried my papers. I would always look ahead and speak to the person coming toward me. If I knew them, I would call them by name, but even if I didn’t I would still speak to them. Before long, I probably knew more students than anybody in the university, and they recognized me and considered me their friend. I ran for every office that came along. l was elected president of the senior men’s honor society, QEBH, an officer in my fraternity, and president of the senior class. I was captain and president of Scabbard and Blade, the elite military organization of ROTC.

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.” According to the rule, when Walmart associates (as Walmart calls its employees) came within ten feet of customers, they were to smile, make eye contact, greet the customer, and offer assistance. As Walmart grew, Sam added greeters who would greet customers at the door (and control “shrinkage” / shoplifting.) Even today, the Ten-Foot Rule is a part of the Walmart culture.

Likeability: A Predictor of Success

Likeability for success in life Likeability is an important predictor to success in life. Some people seem naturally endowed with appealing personalities. They tend to complement their talents by being personable and graceful, presenting themselves well, and by possessing the appropriate social skills for every occasion. They often win others over effortlessly. At school and in college, they are their teachers’ favorites and are chosen by their peers to represent their classes. They are invited to the right kind of parties and gatherings, and infuse them with life. At work, they are persuasive; they get noticed and quickly climb the corporate ladder.

From my observations of the traits of the talented and successful, I offer you a few reminders to help you become more personable, develop rapport, and thus maximize your chance of success:

The Waiter Rule: A Window to Personality

'The Waiter Rule,' Interpersonal Skills - How you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character

Window to An Individual’s Personality

This article in USA Today says that how one treats a waiter can predict a lot about the person’s character.

The article quotes Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson and Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes.

A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person. Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with. Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles.

How executives treat waiters probably demonstrates how they treat their actual employees. Sitting in the chair of CEO makes me no better of a person than the forklift operator in our plant. If you treat the waiter, or a subordinate, like garbage, guess what? Are they going to give it their all? I don’t think so.

“The Waiter Rule”

'The Waiter Rule,' Interpersonal Skills -- How you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character We presume each person’s influence is a function of his/her rank or title. Consequently, we may fail to treat everybody as we wish to be treated.

All of us, especially the ones from the service and hospitality industries, have our favourite stories of people who treated us with dignity: perhaps a manager who remembers her employees’ kids’ names or a fellow-passenger who helped us handle luggage on a flight. We also have our tales of people being indifferent in various contexts: perhaps a new secretary who got yelled at for mistakes by an executive-on-fast-track.

Fundamentally, the ‘Waiter Rule’ indicates that how we treat seemingly insignificant people, whether on a date or a job interview, can provide pointers to our personality and priorities.

Call for Action

Contemplate the following:

  • 'The Waiter Rule:' how you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character, Consider your own experiences when you were touched by others–their thoughtfulness or consideration. How did you return their kindness? Additionally, think about circumstances when you felt disrespected or discouraged. How did you react?
  • Now, reflect on how you treat people: your loved ones, your staff and colleagues, ushers, store attendants, and the rest of the people you interact with everyday. Do you accept who they are and accommodate their concerns? Are you generous? Do you treat them as people or as a means to an end? How can you change?