We are all taught the Golden Rule when we are very young – treat others how you want to be treated. I do not buy into that way of thinking because everyone is different and how we treat them should be different as well. So my personal philosophy, and what I try to instill in our team at Preferred, is the Platinum Rule – Treat others how THEY want to be treated.
How we want to be treated is influenced by generational, educational, economical, emotional, and other variables that make it highly personal. If you look inside your own households or families you will find wildly different preferences about how each of you want to be treated.
Take my mom and I as an example. We are very similar in a lot of ways, which makes sense because she raised me and was the foundation of my morals and beliefs. But for as many things we have in common we have just as many differences. One of the things we completely disagree on is shopping. Don’t get me wrong – we both love to shop – but the ways we like to do it are opposite. I like to order online and have it delivered or pick it up without searching through the racks and deal with the crowds. My mother looks at shopping as an Olympic sport, going up and down every aisle to touch each item before she buys it. It drives me crazy! If I do have to go into a store, you had better believe I am going through the self-checkout. My mom, on the other hand, wants to boycott stores that have them because she thinks it is taking jobs away from people. She enjoys the experience of talking to the cashier and feels like if she has to bag her own groceries or check herself out she should get a discount. I would actually pay more to be able to do those things. Neither of us are either right or wrong when it comes to our approach or values, just different.
I say all this to illustrate the point of the Platinum Rule and my strong belief that it fosters a mutually beneficial relationship. If my mom followed the Golden Rule, she would drag me to the store, make me go up and down the aisles and then stand in line to wait for a cashier to check us out. However, she knows my preferences, so when she is buying something for me she practices the Platinum Rule. She will buy me a gift card and let me shop online, or has me send my Amazon wish list because that’s how I want to be treated. I in turn will take her to the mall to buy her gifts because I know that makes her happy (even though it drives me crazy).
The Platinum Rule easily translates into the workplace as well. We cannot expect people to want what we want. We can’t expect people to have the same communication preferences we have. We have to invest the time and energy to learn how they want to be treated. Keep in mind, this doesn’t just apply to customers but to our co-workers as well.
Taking the time to get to know how someone wants to be treated will pay dividends in the end. It may be bumpy at first and take you out of your personal comfort zone, but the majority of the time people will notice and appreciate the effort. It can help build relationships as well as provide a strong foundation (“they listen to me”) should issues arise in the future.
So how do we find out how people want to be treated? Start with simply being observant. As you see how they interact with you and others it can give you insight as to what they want. But keep in mind there is nothing wrong with asking them. We ask new customers what they want and what their expectations for communication are. They often vary widely. Some request to be notified of every minute detail while others only want to know if there is a huge problem. Some want an email outlining a problem, some want a phone call at the first hint of trouble, and some fall somewhere in between. The preferences can even vary within the same organization. It is our responsibility to learn how they want to be treated and then consistently treat them that way.
Most people practice the Platinum Rule with customers and don’t even realize they are doing it because it is a standard business practice. The challenge is to do it with our co-workers and in our personal lives as well. Investing the time to understand how someone wants to be treated can prevent issues from occurring in the first place but can also help resolve issues if (or, more likely, when) they do happen. You may be the type of person that wants to talk it out immediately if there is a problem, but your co-worker or significant other may need time to process or cool down before talking about the problem. If you know that about them and give them the time and space they need, when you do come together your conversation will likely be more constructive and less stressful.
At the end of the day, if everyone practiced the Platinum Rule our lives would be a more productive and harmonious, and who wouldn’t want that?
Written by Kendra Henry, Senior Customer Service Manager