The Platinum Rule in Action

Three recent exchanges helped me pinpoint how I prefer to be treated as a customer.

The first was in a casual restaurant. The waiter greeted us, served us, returned several times to ask if we needed anything else, smiled often, and at the end—thanked us for our business. He gave us proper attention, but he didn’t linger or frequently interrupt our private dinner conversation. Because of this, our meal was a pleasant experience.

The second situation was at a drug store. Because it wasn’t busy, the checker carried on a light conversation with me about current events. He was proficient, speedy, and accurate. But he also was friendly, and provided a unique personal experience for me. He, too, thanked me for my business at the end of our encounter. I left the store with my purchases and a bit of trivia—I actually learned something new!

My third example was at my doctor’s office. I’ve been blessed throughout my life to have doctors who listen, inform, and care in equal measure. In this recent encounter, my current doctor listened to my thoughts and questions, asked me about personal life events, and shared her knowledge about my unique health profile. She was genuine, professional, and encouraging. I left her office feeling optimistic about my health.

These three examples illustrate my customer service preferences: I want to be respected, served, and assisted as a customer—no matter the setting. I don’t like being dismissed (who does?), but I also dislike “fakeness.” I don’t want a person to fawn over me or to be overly enthusiastic to get a sale or a positive review. I want to feel I’ve made a genuine connection with the person serving me.

I’m guessing many people feel this way, however, that’s not always the case. Some probably prefer quick “in and out” encounters as customers—just the facts and the exchange of payment. Others prefer servers who work hard for the sale—who, for example, linger at the dinner table inserting themselves into customers’ private conversations, unsolicited.

One quality most of us appreciate in a server is the ability to “read” our preferences—to be flexible and able to meet the needs of various customers’ styles.

I remember reading long ago that, in customer service, one should flip the old adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” to the alternative, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

It’s called “The Platinum Rule,” it’s more empathic, and it’s truly powerful when you see it in action.

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