How Using The 10-5 Rule In Banking Sets A Cultural Tone

Recently, at our annual Bank Management Conference, the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Team came in to help bankers improve their customer experience. As you might guess, most of their suggestions were around hiring, training, accountability and setting high standards. In this article, we want to highlight one tactic, called the “10-5 Rule” that many hospitality, healthcare companies, and banks employ to improve customer service.


The 10-5 Rule Explained


The 10-5 Rule is simple and says that anytime you come within ten feet of a customer you attempt to make eye contact. When you are within five feet, you acknowledge them verbally with a “Hello,” “Good Morning,” or something similar.


10-5 Rule for Bank Customer Service


As you greet them, if the customer seems confused or lost in any way, you offer to help.


That is it. The 10-5 Rule is straightforward, clear and easy to remember.


The Problem The 10-5 Rule Solves


While most everyone instinctually knows this, articulating this Rule in an employee handbook and in training allows expectations to be unambiguously set with a clear message – pleasing our customer is our number one job.

Note that the Rule doesn't say, “If you are not late for a meeting or if you don’t have anything else to do and you are within five feet you greet the customer.” The Rule also doesn’t have any stipulations about your job position. It doesn’t say if you work in a branch, you should engage with the customer at ten and five feet.


The Rule says that everyone should always engage with the customer.


The Rule prevents the “Ostrich Syndrome” or the habit that some employees have at looking down or away when they walk past a customer for fear that the customer is going to cause them more work. It is true that the customer may cause more work, but isn’t that what we are in business?


This three-step rule is an example of managing the complex world of the customer experience with simplicity. The Rule helps create a culture from chaos by providing a set of adaptive instructions that if all employees followed, you would have the basis for a very strong service culture in every condition.


Putting This Into Action


If you don’t have the formal 10-5 Rule, consider implementing it as a way to strengthen your culture. Having everyone engaging with the public has very little downside. The Rule sets clear expectations sends a message that the customer is important above almost all else.   


Underlying the Rule is this simple supposition - if you keep ignoring the customer long enough, they will, in fact, go away – both as an individual and as an organization.