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Human Governance: Golden Rule or Platinum?

Customer Experience: Golden Rule or Platinum

For some time now, I have been aware of the Platinum Rule. I have, however, remained sceptical and largely ignored it. After all, the Golden Rule has worked for the human race for millennia and underpinned much of what has been good. I don’t see how it can suddenly become invalid. But that is not enough: it is simply resistance to change. Finding out whether my doubts are justified requires a closer look.

The Golden Rule, as expressed by Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount, is common to all or nearly all religions and philosophy, and certainly predates him. It states, “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” (Matthew Chapter 7 verse 12 King James Bible.) Or, to put it more simply, “Treat others the way you would like them to treat you.”


On the other hand, The Platinum Rule, the exact origins of which are unknown but often attributed to an episode of the TV sitcom, “How I met Your Mother”, states “Treat others the way they would like to be treated.”

Subtly, but profoundly, different, The Platinum Rule certainly sounds reasonable. In fact, it sounds wonderful, almost Utopian. Yet there is a major flaw. How do you know what the other person wants? Especially when it comes to customers.

Great Customer Experience 36595718_sIn order to treat a customer the way they want to be treated, you have to first know that customer and their wishes, wants or requirements. Of course, once you do know this, then it is only right that you should treat them in the way they want. But doesn’t that normally happen anyway?

When you want to be treated a particular way, and you know the other person is aware of what that is, you expect them to act accordingly. So why would you act any differently when the situations are reversed and you are dealing with their wishes? If you are practising The Golden Rule, you wouldn’t.  

This appears to suggest that The Platinum Rule does not replace The Golden Rule but is rather an adjunct or supplement to it.  It then becomes a question of when you switch. Yet, proponents of The Platinum Rule argue that it is more and entails making an extra effort to find out your customer’s wants, needs and desires so you can ensure you meet them. They argue that giving them what you think they want doesn’t add value and does not enhance the customer experience or win customer loyalty.

You cannot argue against that, but I am not sure it really requires another rule. Great customer experience entails exceeding customer expectations. That usually involves more than finding out what the customer wants.  Ultimately it entails understanding the reason for their need and then envisaging what you would want if you were in their position: putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.  The Golden Rule already covers that.        

The Platinum Rule thus seems little more than a top-down formula for enhancing sales and customer loyalty. Yes, it seems entirely rational and logical, and ostensibly it addresses customer experience specifically. Yet it is questionable how much value it really adds. It still requires additional effort and retraining.  Proper application of the traditional values and objectives of The Golden Rule can do this just as effectively.

Ultimately it is your choice. And, whatever you choose, you still need employees capable of establishing rapport with customers to identify what is required. That is why ‘every individual matters.’    


If you like what you have read contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model can provide the catalyst to help you create an organisational culture of ‘Love at Work’ : one where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, so embracing change and transforming – and sustaining – organisational performance.


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.


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