Advance Performance | “The Twelve Feet Rule and Great Customer Service” By Nick Bishop
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“The Twelve Feet Rule and Great Customer Service” By Nick Bishop

“The Twelve Feet Rule and Great Customer Service” By Nick Bishop

As the author of the Advance Customer Service Excellence Programme, many of you will be aware that I am passionate about great service.


Customers always love to receive great service, and one of the most intrinsic needs of the human race is to feel loved. It’s a key feature of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Put the two together and surely it would suggest that by giving great service that we will fulfil both the customer and our own needs!

So what is the Twelve Feet rule?

As I recently approached the counter of a high street coffee shop, I looked at the barista who was busy bending over the till and also talking with a colleague.

To interject or not?” I thought, wondering if perhaps the barista will look up and start a dialogue. Instead, the question “Who’s next?” was asked. I was actually the only person in the queue. So no confusion there!

I wondered if I should wait but instead asked for my standard order of Americano with hot milk. My order was obviously taken as I heard the barista repeat it to a colleague who was standing next to her. I still received no eye contact or greeting.

So this got me thinking. During the course of the morning, I watched assistants in a variety of shops make that all important initial welcome with the Customer.  It was then that I came up with the Twelve Feet rule.

While the assistant may see customers from a distance, it is when the customers actually reach a distance of around twelve feet, that they should really start the process of engagement.

This allows for a number of things to happen in those brief three seconds. Our immediate focus is then with the approaching customer. We acknowledge with our eyes. We welcome with a smile. We relax the customer through our “open body language”. The customer is then ready for the verbal greeting. The final part of the jigsaw. This needs to be polite, professional and friendly.

The Twelve Feet rule also allows for time to recognise the body language of the customer. By doing so, we can also prepare for any particular situation, but never assume.

What a difference if I been greeted by someone using the Twelve Feet rule. I would have felt very special. A prepared barista with a warm and friendly welcome. The coffee would naturally have tasted even better and surprisingly, I would perhaps have returned.

Ironically, the coffee was served with cold and not hot milk. That’s all down to listening skills. A topic for another week.

Enjoy your coffee, and remember the Twelve Feet rule!

Nick delivers the Advance “two day” Customer Service Excellence programme and is available to deliver talks covering the same subject.