BEYOND THE GOLDEN RULE…Applying the other rules to customer service

So, we all know of the Golden Rule, right? I mean, the “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you” Rule. Great. The Golden Rule as a moral standpoint has applications and implications for all walks of life, including in the world of business. The Golden Rule when applied to customer service calls for organisations and their customer-facing staff to place themselves in the shoes of their customers when offering service.

The Golden Rule is simple because every single employee is also a customer elsewhere. Therefore, the idea is that what they would not want to experience when they go out to other businesses, they should not mete out to their customers. When applied well, the Golden Rule can do wonders for the quality of service the organisation puts out there.

But are you aware that beyond the Golden Rule, there are other rules? Apparently, they are others. Five more, in fact. Yes, there are a lot more precious metals and their accompanying rules. There are Lead, Iron, Diamond and Platinum rules. There is even a Ruby Rule.

I really have no idea where these came from. At least, the Golden Rule is the single most dominant imperative for almost all religions. From the Judeo-Christian standpoint of Jesus the Christ, we come across it in the popular “Do Unto Others” statements as recorded in the Gospels. Matthew records it as such: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” From the Bahai Faith we have a variant that states, “Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee.” In Buddhism, the question is asked, “…..a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” The Hindu version is “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” 

So we know where the Golden Rule gets its origins from but the lead, platinum, ruby and the rest, I really do not know. But this does not stop me from applying these rules or at least one of them to Customer Service.

Let’s see what these rules are. For starters, there is the Lead Rule which says, “Do unto others BEFORE they do unto you.” The Key word obviously being “BEFORE”. The Lead Rule reminds me of that very popular saying that the best form of defence is to attack. In other words, if you anticipate that your opponent will deliver a blow, you first deliver the blow to gain an advantage.

My biggest problem with a rule like this is the fact that you might mis-read the person’s actions and end up slapping someone who was about to give you a hug. People do not always do what we expect them to do. Therefore, if we are to go around “doing unto them” things we expect them to do to us, we might end up apologising a lot for our actions.

Then there is the Iron Rule which says, “Do unto others what they have done unto you.” This Rule can have two very different applications. On the positive side, it means “one good turn deserves another.” It is only courteous that when someone does something good for you, you repay with a good deed of your own.

However, on the flip side, this Rule can have very negative connotations. It is retaliation to the core. I do not think it serves any great purpose if we all went around retaliating for things people have done against us in the past.

I must say the Lead and Iron Rules might not be the best Rules one can live by. If these two were the only rules we had to live by, one can only envisage the utter chaos that would have engulfed this world. Fortunately, there are three other precious minerals that we can fall on. These three rules are rules that I am convinced if organisations were to take seriously and imbibe in each and every one of their employees, things would change for the better in terms of customer service.

The first of the last three is the Platinum Rule. This states, “Do unto others what THEY would have you do unto them.” This is the foundation for every great business. They give customers what customers want, not what the business has decided the customer wants. Too many businesses decide what it is that they want to bring to the market, without as much as asking the customer if that is what she needs. A few months down the line and that business would be carried out of the market on the refuse heap of failed enterprises.

The Platinum Rule calls for lots of research of all kinds. It calls for greater interaction between the business and its customers. To know what customers would have the business do for them, the business must ask the customer. Unfortunately, this is something that is really lacking among many businesses. To get into the head of the customer is something that should be of concern to any business leader, owner or manager.

The next rule is the Ruby Rule. This states, “Do unto others what others need done for them, even if they don’t realize or appreciate it.” Although this Rule might come across as a contradiction of the Platinum Rule, I believe they can both serve useful purposes at different stages of an organisation’s life. The Ruby Rule is about innovation. I believe this is exactly what Steve Jobs meant when he said “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Interestingly enough, these same thoughts had been expressed long before Steve Jobs by the man who arguably singlehandedly revolutionised the automobile industry, Henry Ford. Ford is quoted as saying, If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Does this mean one should totally ignore one’s customers when it comes to coming out with a new product or service? My answer is “No”. Customer insight is always important even if it is just to give you an idea of what not to bring on to the market. It is true that customers might generally tell you things that might turn out to be less than useful but the truth is that just talking to customers will go a long way to give you a good gauge of what pertains on the market at every point in time. Such information is key even for the most innovative and avant-garde organisations.

The final rule is the Diamond Rule. It says, “Discern what people will want and need even before they realize it. Then offer it at the right time.” This looks like a Rule made purposely for Customer Service and brings together all the positives of the other rules. It is about, first and foremost, anticipating the needs of your customers. This evidently calls for the research that is advocated by the Platinum Rule. You cannot discern what customers want if you do not ask around. The second part of the Rule is about getting the timing right. Products and services must be introduced on to the market at just the right time. Offerings that are rushed on to the market before their time tend to be delivered DOA—Dead on Arrival.

The importance of rules in our lives cannot ever be overestimated. Without rules and laws to guide us, ours would have been a most chaotic existence. One only has to look at the spate of lawlessness in our society to see what would have been had there not been any laws to deter people. Even with all the laws we have enacted and their attendant punitive measures, people still flout rules. How much more if we had no rules?

As much as rules imposed by the society are important for the general wellbeing of the entire society, I must say that the best rules are not the ones that are imposed on us. The best rules are those that are self-imposed. It is always better to be your own police. We are better off when we place a burden on ourselves to live by certain standards, regardless of what others are engaged in. So therefore, it does not matter whether the organisation you work for believes in customer service or not. It does not really matter if all your colleagues in the office are horrible at customer service or not. What matters is that you as an individual decide to live your life by any of the positive maxims discussed in this piece. The Golden Rule has been the foundation on which civility has thrived, therefore not much would be said about it. But adopt one or two more of the others, and before long, your life will be pure gold.