Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

The Ten Foot, Five Foot Rule – With a Twist

This isn’t anything new, but it’s worth a reminder.  It’s Customer Service 101.  It is a very basic concept or strategy that you may be familiar with, except I have a twist on this, so please read on!

The “Ten Foot, Five Foot Rule” is generally thought to be a frontline strategy, just for customer facing employees.  For those that might not know what I’m referring to, the rule, if that is what you want to call it is really a simple strategy:

Within ten feet or so of a customer, you should acknowledge them with a facial expression.  I add to that, it should be a smile!   And within five feet or so of the customer, you should acknowledge them verbally.  It may be a simple, “Good morning,” or “Great day today.”  The idea is to create a small positive interaction between you and your customer.  This all makes sense and some of the best companies in the world actually include this simple strategy in their employee training programs.

However, seldom does anyone ever talk about this “rule” being applied to the internal customer. By the way, many typical front line customer service strategies can be easily applied to the internal customer.   Imagine if everyone you work with greeted you every morning when you came to work.  Or they smiled at you every time you walked by them.  Think of the positive atmosphere this might promote in your company.  Think of the energy that would result if everyone was just a little nicer to everyone they encountered – both customers and fellow employees.

Some people won’t be good at this.  Some people won’t want to do it.  It is just not something they are used to.  However, make it part of your culture (dare I say mandatory), and once everyone starts to do it and it becomes a habit, it will be much easier for everyone to do.  Keep in mind as you hire new people that you are looking for the personalities that buy into this type of practice.

If this “rule” was originally meant to be used with customers, the concept of bringing it internally is a powerful way to set a positive tone and example in your workplace.  This is especially important for management and leadership to show how it is done.  If they don’t do it, you can’t expect others in the company to do it either.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

  1. Serving a customer with a smile doesn’t mean you only do it face-to-face; you can do it even when you’re talking to them over the phone. Customers can hear the eagerness in your tone if you talk them with a.. smile. Just a thought..

  2. Great Article Shep! I had never heard of this specific strategy, and I fully concur with the concept. I always purposely great everyone I run into throughout the day, and when I come in contact with someone new, I try to engage them specifically as there will come a time when they will need something from me, or vice versa and it is important to build and strengthen relationships continuously.

    Again, great article!

  3. Adeola Adegbesan says:

    I just did a mini talk with two new hires in my place of work. Amazing internal customer is the root of amazing external customers. its a culture i saw myself doing without being told and it has gained a lot of acceptance and respect for me. i will love to get more tips so i can have a document to teach a group of customer service officers on how to continuously amaze customers. Thank you for this tip, its great indeed.

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