If you’re ever lucky enough to stay in a Ritz-Carlton hotel, you may think it’s the plush towels and comfy bedding that make the place so special.  While that’s nice, the reason so many people revisit the hotel chain has more to do with service than with swimming pools.  How does the Ritz-Carlton ensure that its service is consistent across the world, and that each of their employees makes people feel good?  Simple – the Ritz-Carlton hotels franchised a policy called the 10/5 Way, which has made all the difference for their brand.

What is the 10/5 Way?

The 10/5 Way is easy.  When a guest is 10 feet from a Ritz employee, the employee is to make eye contact and smile.  When the guest is 5 feet away, the employee is instructed to smile and say “hello.”  Does this make a difference?  Sam Walton of Walmart and the staff at Ochsner Health System knows it does. 

When Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart was in charge, he required his greeters to smile whenever they were within ten feet of a customer.  It was part of what made the company so successful in its rise. People were surprised to be greeted by a person.  When a person feels welcomed and thanked for visiting, they feel important. 

Case Study: Ochsner Health System

Shawn Archer, author of “Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change,” tells the story of Ochsner Health System, which decided to implement the 10/5 Way.  The company formally trained more than eleven thousand physicians and staff to smile and say hello according to the 10/5 Way.  According to Mr. Archer, many doctors were skeptical, saying things like, “I don’t have time to waste on this silly HR initiative.  I’m busy saving lives.” 

The instruction to smile not only changed the culture for the better at Ochsner Health, but dramatically improved patient outcomes.  It turns out patients that experience a warm and positive environment are much more likely to follow their treatment regime and return for checkups.  This in turn, created better health-related outcomes, and patients who raved about their experience, which grew the practice (and its bottom line) substantially. 

Why it Works

Over time, smiling behavior became “contagious.”  Humans are naturally wired to mirror each other.  Usually, when someone says smiles at you, you smile back.  The same is true when someone says hello.  It is human nature to say hello back, which may lead to further interaction. 

When everyone around you is smiling, it is difficult to maintain negativity.  Saying “hello” to someone lets them know they’ve been seen.  Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said, “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, ‘Make me feel important.’ Never forget this message when working with people.”  Smiling and saying hello fulfills the human need to be seen and to be made to feel important.

Do it Yourself

Why not institute the 10/5 Way for yourself?  Whenever you’re within 10 feet of a fellow employee, make eye contact and smile.  When you’re within 5 feet, say hello.  Studies have confirmed that the best doctors aren’t those with the fanciest degrees, but those who know how to connect with their patients.  To be the best compliance officer you can be, learn how to connect with your colleagues.  A smile and a quick hello will do just that.