The Platinum Rule & customer satisfaction: treat customers how they would like to be treated


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It’s January, the first month of a new year, and for many it’s time to reflect on changes in the way their organization is run. Today we’ll be reflecting on the different options that companies have in interacting with their customers.

It’s pretty safe to say that all business leaders understand their business exists to meet the needs, wants and expectations of customers. Many companies have endeavoured to institutionalize customer interactions by providing employees with specific behaviours to deploy – answer the phone within three rings, greet the customer within 30 seconds – while others rely on the Golden Rule to guide their employees; believing that if the employees treat customers the way the employees would like to be treated, the customers will be satisfied.

There is a better way to achieve customer satisfaction

The fundamental flaw of the Golden Rule is that the employees are projecting a set of expectations onto the customers – based on standardized criteria – those you provide or their own preferences.

Customers may or may not like being treated in a standardized manner and they may or may not have the same preferences as the employee they are dealing with. In other words, they’d wish to be treated differently.

Knowing the personality preferences of others can help employees adapt their own behaviours to reflect the preferences of your customers. Reflecting the needs, wants and expectations of the customer – in a manner that creates a collaborative relationship – will achieve much greater success.

Understanding the four different personality preference types

While there are many personality preference models, I’ve found Dr. Tony Alessandra’s Platinum Rule model to be simple and easy to work with.

According to The Platinum Rule®, there are four preference types: Directors; Socializers; Relaters; and Thinkers.

At the risk of over-simplifying, let me tell you what’s important to each and what proportion of the population falls into each of the four preference types.

  • Directors, who make up just 3% of the population, want Results;
  • Socializers, who make up 17%,want Recognition;
  • Relaters, who make up a whopping 70% and who are by far the largest category, want Relationships; and
  • Thinkers, at 10%, want to be Right.

Take note, nearly seven in 10 people are of the Relater preference type.

So, if you’re part of the large group of Relaters who value relationships, and you treat everyone else the way you want to be treated, you will achieve success with about 49% of the people you meet.

Worse yet, if you’re a Director with your tendency towards wanting results, you will achieve success with about 1% of the people you meet!

How can you use this knowledge for greater customer satisfaction?

Imagine that you can apply The Platinum Rule® and identify the preferences of others around you and adapt your own behaviour – treat others the way they want to be treated. You give the Directors results, Socializers recognition, Relaters relationships, and give Thinkers the opportunity to be right – reflecting their wants and needs, rather than projecting your own preferences!

Imagine how this approach might impact the way your employees treat your customers.

If your employees can learn to readily identify the personality preferences of customers, and adapt their behaviour to reflect the customer’s preferences, there will be more collaboration and less conflict! Instead of treating all customers the same or the way the employee would like to be treated, treat the customer the way they want to be treated.

The Platinum Rule® in action

Let’s take a common problem – an error on a credit card statement – each of the four personality preference types will take a slightly different approach to registering their complaint.

The Director will call up, describe the problem concisely and demand an immediate refund. They are completely focused on the desired result. They’re not interested in being put on hold while you try to figure out what happened or why. They want it fixed and they want to get on to the next thing – they may or may not wait for the refund confirmation number.

The Socializer will call up, tell you how shocked and disappointed they are – they can hardly believe that such a thing could happen to them. They are a good customer and they really don’t appreciate having these errors made. They want to be recognized for their loyalty, and appreciated for their patience as you resolve the problem – they will respond well if thanked for their help in solving a problem that may impact others. They will be sure to get the confirmation number so that you will recognize them when they call again.

The Relater will call up, apologize for bothering you, offer that it could be their own mistake and ask you to help them figure it out. They want to be reassured that you are glad they took the time to call, that you value the relationship, you are there to serve them and happy to fix the problem without a big fuss. They will be sure to get the confirmation number so they can make it easy for you to look up – just in case they have to call again – which they hope will not be necessary because they know how busy you are.

The Thinker will call up, describe the problem concisely, tell you their theory of how it happened, and demand that you confirm/disprove their theory – they will repeat their story until you acknowledge that they are right. They will hang on while you get to the bottom of the matter, want reassurance that this will never happen again and demand the confirmation number of the credit/refund.

Reflecting the customer’s preference leads to greater satisfaction

If we accept that every complaint is an opportunity to turn a moment of misery into a moment of magic, I’m sure you can see that how your employees respond to each of these customers can make a significant impact on their perceptions and their level of satisfaction with the interaction.

By teaching our employees to recognize, respect and reflect the customer’s preferences, by changing how you approach customer interactions, you can differentiate your company, its products and services from your competitors. That’s a basic application of The Platinum Rule®.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Anne Miner
Anne Miner, the founding partner of The Dunvegan Group, first entered the field of marketing and survey research in 1974. Since then, she has been the lead consultant on assignments across virtually all product and service categories, from diapers to transportation. Anne is respected for her ability to work closely with her clients' teams to identify the issues to be investigated, focus on what is actionable and develop creative solutions.


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