August 10th, 2009
03:53 AM GMT
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TOKYO, Japan - “Through repetition and practice, you can create a natural smile,” says Keikyu Railways representative Taichi Takahashi. Strange as it may sound, he has reasons to think so. In June, the company installed software for employees that grade their smiles from 0 to 100.

Keikyu Railways believes the smiles of their workers affect overall service.
Keikyu Railways believes the smiles of their workers affect overall service.

“In the beginning, everyone was confused,” says station attendant Kiyomi Ogiwara, “But now it has become a habit. In the morning, everyone lines up and practices smiling.”

A camera mounted on top of the computer captures the face of each employee as they sit down. Once the test, has begun, they have to hold their smile for 10 seconds before a buzzer goes off indicating the test has finished. They are then given their score, a percentage from 0 to 100, with 100 percent being their ideal smile.

Along the way, the program offers advice on improving one's smile, for example “Relax” or “breathe deeply.” Though the company hasn’t laid down firm rules for its use, one idea under consideration would have workers print out a photo of their 100 percent smile and carry it with them so they can consult it throughout the day.

Ogiwara, 21, is clearly the station champion, her scores hovering between 90 percent and 100 percent. Others at the station struggle to master their grins, with scores around 60 percent. But the test is not mandatory, and the company says workers’ smiles will not be used to determine promotions or demotions.

To those who say they would rather have good service than a smile, Takahashi replies, “Of course good service is the most important. But you can’t give good service with a scary face. The smile affects overall service.” That’s particularly important at the Haneda airport station.

“Haneda airport will start handling more international flights next year,” he says “There will be many foreign tourists using Japan’s trains for the first time and we wish them to have a safe trip.”

Ogiwara says her smile has improved dramatically since the first time she used the machine. “I got used to it, and I try to smile naturally. Now I know how to get a high score,” she says. That natural smile is clearly in evidence as she moves from customer to customer, helping them find the right train, or pay the right fare for their tickets.

“By having a smile on my face,” she says, “I make other people feel good, and they smile back at me.”

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soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. May

    If you smile, the whole world will smile with you.

    Singarpore goverment encourage their citizenry
    to keep smlie.

    Smlie can change your thinking,
    you cannot smile and cry at the same time.
    So, smile is the best policy, no matter what happens.

    Smile also shortens the distance between people and people.

    We should keep smile,always, since it can become a habit through practicing. Smlie, smile, and smile.

    August 10, 2009 at 7:30 am |
  2. Peter owiti

    it takes more nerves to frown ur face than it takes to smile. smile reduces number of wrinkles on ur face hence u dont age faster. its a wonderful gift we all must put to practice

    August 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  3. Nancy pham

    Great idea! People's mood and attitudes completely effects sales and service levels. Kudos to the company who came up with it.

    August 10, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  4. Ricardo Campiteli

    Everybody should smile more everywhere! I'm sure the world would be a lighter place to live. It's scientifically proved that who smiles keep diseases away!

    August 11, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  5. Moje

    Smile should be natural and genuine and come straight from heart. Forced smile is much worse than frowning! And it is not difficult to distinguish between these two when you encounter with a person who has a smile on his/her face.

    August 11, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
  6. Maggie

    Brilliant! A smile is the best beauty cosmetic. A smile is the best way to establish a rapport. A smile makes you look younger.

    I adore people who *smile*

    August 11, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  7. Johnny Rebel

    Forcing people to smile? Perhaps we should all just take the blue pill.

    August 12, 2009 at 12:07 am |
  8. vernita james

    a smile makes each persons you meet happy.
    it is a big blessing from god.

    August 12, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  9. Dennis

    Smile though your heart is aching. Smile whats the use in frowning.

    August 13, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  10. Steve

    If there is a country where smiling could be graded, thus, resulting in hours of practice with eventual pressure and stress towards "smiling perfection", it would have to be Japan.

    August 21, 2009 at 7:34 am |

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