Most of us are familiar with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But what about the "Platinum Rule"? At a seminar I attended years ago, marketing expert Dr. Tony Alessandra introduced me to the Platinum Rule concept: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.
While the Golden Rule sets an ethical standard for conducting your life, the Platinum Rule may be a better guideline for conducting your business life. It recognizes that, in our individualistic society by, every person has very specific preferences that may not match someone else's. People like what they like, and it may or may not be what you like or think they would like. To offer excellent customer service, you must simply give them what they like.
It reminds me of the old story of the Boy Scout who assisted the elderly lady across the street only to discover that she hadn't wanted to cross the street. While he may have been practicing the Golden Rule, he was ignoring the wisdom of the Platinum Rule.
The Platinum Rule is about empathy. Empathy means that you put yourself in the other person's shoes and act accordingly. Don't let what is convenient for your business take precedence over what is convenient for your clients. Shift your focus away from, "This is what I want, so I'll give this to my clients," and move toward, "First I need to understand what my clients want, and then I'll give it to them." The key is to listen and observe what a client needs or appreciates and then try to satisfy those needs.
Alfred B. Sloan, former chairman of General Motors, said it best: "The quickest way to profits is to serve the customer in the way the customer wants to be served."
People come to the salon for a great hair cut or other professional service plus one other thing. For some clients, that second component is to engage in pleasant conversation. A talkative, chatty stylist fits this need exactly. But for other clients, the salon offers a haven for solitude and a break from the noisy world around them. They just want to be left alone. By noting a client's preference at each visit, you can meet the expectations of both types of clients. You may even want to ask the client, "Do you feel like talking today?"
At a fabulous Chinese restaurant I visit, as the patrons are seated the wait staff ask, "Would you like me to leave a pitcher of water on the table, or would you prefer I fill your glasses throughout the evening?" That's practicing the Platinum Rule. And I've always loved the quote by Baron Rothschild upon the opening of his hotel in Paris in the 1950s:
"I want my bath to run hot in two minutes flat. I don't want to hear plumbing noises. I want a good bed and pillows. I want my breakfast right away. I want good croissants. I want people to be polite to me, and I don't want to hear their side of their story."
The practical application of the Platinum Rule of Service is fairly simple:
- 1. Determine what clients want.
- 2. Develop a way to give it to them.
- 3. Monitor delivery to make sure they're receiving it. For example, conduct client surveys.
- 4. Make adjustments to improve as you continue to learn about your clients.
When you "do unto others as they prefer to be done unto," recognizing that your clients are not you, you'll notice a surge in your client retention, referral and rebooking rate.
Richard D. Hanks is President of Mindshare Technologies (mshare.net), a leading provider of real-time, automated customer feedback solutions.