Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Golden Rule and the Customer

Recently, I read a post from Don Peppers, talking about what it would take to make a genuinely trustable airline.  In his post he refers to the Golden Rule, "Do onto others as you would have them do onto you." That sparked a thought in my mind about how we treat our customers today.

Do we really follow this rule? A bigger question is, do we need to?

Some may argue, that we are running a business. We should not mix friendship and business. They may quote an old saying along the lines of - "If a horse makes the grass his friend, then what will he eat?" And they may be right in some cases. You need to think about the business. You cannot go giving out freebies, just because you would like others to give you freebies... unfortunately, the economies don't work that way.

Other, more idealistic thinkers and philosophers, would disagree and quote the Halo Effect. And reiterate the Golden Rule.

These in my view are two extremes when it comes to dealing with customers. After pondering over this for some time, I think that the right path is not in either one of these camps, but more the middle path. Since it is a middle path, it is that much more difficult to define as a standard. It will be different for each customer you work with.

Some customer relations will be close to the idealistic approach, while others will be more business transactions.

Let me take an example of human relations that may help explain this.

As a team leader, sometimes I praise someone in front of the whole team. I would love to have someone do that for me. Other times though, I take a team member aside and give strict feedback. Would I like someone to do that to me? Do I look forward to those days that my manager will ask me to his cabin for a "feedback" session? Frankly, I would love to avoid those as much as possible. Here, though it is the right thing to do and help guide the team member, the Golden Rule does not really apply.

So what of the customer. My take on the application of the Golden Rule is that it should be used. You should think of your customers as you would want your vendors to think about you. But not all the time. Do something human and talk about it ("praise in front of the whole team") and know your limits and do the right thing in business transactions ("feedback" sessions).

What is your take? Do you use the Golden Rule with customers?

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