Where Are Your Blind Spots?

Everyone should follow the golden rule, right?

No, no, not the one that says “he who has the gold makes the rules.” I’m talking about the golden rule we all grew up with.

Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Works for kindergarten and it works now, right?

The key to wealth, health, happiness and world peace?

Not necessarily.

The platinum rule

There’s another rule, sometimes called the platinum rule.

“Do unto others as they would want done to them.”

The platinum rule doesn’t take your likes and dislikes as the standard. It gets your ego out of it (as much as possible) and puts your customer at the center, where she should be.

(One hotel management pundit even came up with a double platinum rule, where you’re expected to anticipate what your customer would like if only she knew about it. Sounds suspiciously like marketing to me.)

How to use the golden rule to drive your customers up the wall

I have a friend who runs a service business. He’s extremely conscientious. It’s very common for him to spend three or four unbilled hours researching the cheapest possible solutions for his customers.

There’s just one problem. His customers are ready to strangle him.

In almost every case, they don’t actually want the absolute cheapest way to solve the problem. They prefer a solution that’s packaged for convenience. Or that comes with a help desk so they can ask dopey questions. Or that just gives them the nice warm feeling of certainty they have when they buy a name brand.

His efforts to save them money too often cost them time and aggravation. And even now, most customers will be happy to spend money to save on time and aggravation. (They at least appreciate being given the option.)

He’s living by the golden rule. He would love it if a vendor bent over backwards to save him money, and he assumes that’s what his customers want.

It’s not. But he can’t get out of his own head long enough to see that.

Making it about their needs

It’s incredibly hard to think like another person. We all believe we do, but we have blind spots.

My friend can’t conceive of a customer who’s got bigger worries than cash flow.

I have a hard time remembering that most customers don’t want an overwhelming map of all the territory they could cover, they just want a fast map to get where they want to go.

You’re not going to be able to wave a magic wand and get completely out of your own head. No one is so enlightened that they don’t fall into this trap. Even the Dalai Lama probably assumes that everybody likes yak butter.

How to find your own blind spots

The next time a customer gets mad at you, try to listen for what might really be going on. Did they take your professionalism for condescension? Did your relatively minor screw-up make them look bad in front of a friend?

What assumptions did you make about this client relationship? Try to look at even the ones you think are ridiculously obvious. If you can get into a productive conversation about it with the customer, that’s fantastic. It will make the customer feel good and it will help you get smarter.

Surveying your customers works, too. To get out of blind spot hell, remember to leave things open-ended. If you create multiple-choice questions, you’re just asking people to validate what you’ve already decided.

How about you?

What blind spots have caught you up lately? Let us know in the comments.

Flickr Creative Commons photo by woodleywonderworks


  1. Daniel Edlen says:

    Wow. I’ve never heard of the platinum rule. Beautiful reworking of the idea!

    Usually for me if a client is getting “utchy”, as I like to say, kinda agitated and uncomfortable, heading for the door, I realize I’ve been doing exactly the golden rule and not quite listening well enough. I think along the lines of “I’m the artist. I know what’s best.” Wrongo. Can’t impose that directly. So I get myself out of it, say “yes, we’ll make it work”, and then make it work!


    Daniel Edlens last blog post..Halfway Under The Limbo Pole

  2. There’s that listening thing again….might be something to it. Who hasn’t gotten a gift for example, that was much more about the giver than yourself? Remember how that feels?

    In terms of customer service, like the Ritz Carlton’s Mission statement above all others. They anticipate but it’s based on really putting themselves in their clients shoes.

    Janice Cartiers last blog post..Never Ending Brilliance

  3. Great job presenting and explaining the problem. I would like to suggest a solution that works for me. It’s called “other people.” As in, “other people who don’t share your blind spots.” This is why people hire business and blogging coaches or form Mastermind groups.

    Michael Martines last blog post..WordPress.TV Launches – Video Tutorials Galore!

  4. Dan Waldron says:

    I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  5. Timmy says:

    So really, the Platinum Rule IS the Golden Rule. After all, if you were your client, wouldn’t you want your reasonable wants and needs to be respected and upheld? “Doing unto others as they would want done unto them” is just a reiteration of “Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you like the former better, go for it. But don’t get carried away satisfying vain or unhealthy wants simply because someone else wants it.
    To me, The Golden Rule doesn’t mean “do anything that somebody wants you to do, because you’d want them to do anything for you.” It means help others be happy, because you’d want others to help you be happy, too.” However, the things we want don’t always make us happy. If my best friend realized that I am a greedy, materialistic person, should they still buy me that expensive lawnmower for Christmas? If they really cared about me, they wouldn’t. In fact, years later I would probably thank them for looking out for me (if I knew that they decided against it).

  6. Drew Kime says:

    Oh, so there’s a name for it? Because I’ve been saying exactly that for years.

    Timmy, there’s a difference. If you take it very high level … “Make me happy” … then sure. It’s when we get into concrete details that it gets tricky.

    For instance, someone I know really loves going to afternoon tea. When she wants to repay a favor, or show someone gratitude for a kindness, she’ll invite them to tea. Because of course that’s what she would want. She gives gift certificates to tea rooms as birthday or anniversary presents, because that’s what she would want.

    You can tell her directly that you don’t, in fact, like tea. And she will conclude that you are trying to be kind and spare her the expense. (I know, I’ve tried.)

    If she offers you something you don’t want and you say, “No, thank you,” she’ll respond that it’s no trouble. You insist, she’ll say, “But I don’t mind.” You tell her directly, “Please don’t,” and suddenly she’s hurt, wonders what she’s done to offend you.

    It’s just inconceivable to her that someone might not like the same things she likes.

  7. Timmy says:

    That still seems to be The Golden Rule though…
    If you were the one who really liked tea, you would want who you invite to go with you. I mean, unless you had convulsions from drinking tea, couldn’t you just go? How bad could it be? And if you really did go into convulsions when you had tea, don’t you think she would understand? And if she really didn’t understand, then I can hardly accuse you for not upholding The Golden Rule. I would place that blame in her court. For if she was in your position, she would want you to allow her to, deny the invitation.

    If you were the ignorant one, it could be good either way. Either she would go out with you and put up with your ignorance, or if she declined politely over and over instead of “Please, don’t” which might be offensive, you might eventually realize that you just don’t like tea. Of course, it would be obvious if you went to lunch with her every time that she didn’t want to have tea.

  8. Mary H Ruth says:

    Sonia, you are sublime.
    Of course, we are willing to take a breath and really listen when we’re not emotionally triggered. Emotion can have such a stranglehold!

    Mary H Ruths last blog post..Tribes

  9. I think that because I want to know why for everything (I used to drive my mother nuts), that everyone else does to. Or that everyone should be willing to find a middle ground where everyone can be happy.

    Nope. A lot of people just want to be told what to do and couldn’t give a crap about expectations and others are totally content to say “Nope, not moving from here.”

    So, as a business person, I have two options: I change who I am, or I change who I deal with. I took the latter route. After a few disastrous clients, I learned how to figure out really quickly the ones who wouldn’t like the way I worked and would pass them off to a colleague.

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..What’s the Big Picture? Don’t lose yourself in details

  10. Ian says:

    Hey Sonia,
    I’m planning on starting a blog in which I’ll be doing some affiliate marketing and marketing some of my own services and products. Is there a good place to get free pictures without having to worry about copy write infringement?

  11. Sonia Simone says:

    Michael, such a good point. We can partner up with people who have entirely different blind spots. It’s so liberating to find business partners or just business friends who can see the stuff you don’t.

    Alex, I like that approach a lot. Havi Brooks talks a lot about finding your “right people” in your business (and really your whole life), and I’m a fan of that.

    Ian, check out a post I wrote on that very subject at Copyblogger: http://www.copyblogger.com/find-blog-post-images/. You can also get a more detailed tutorial on using Flickr Creative Commons images over on skelliewag, it’s at http://www.skelliewag.org/a-complete-guide-to-finding-and-using-incredible-flickr-images-162.htm .

  12. A blind spot I never corrected while seeking business sponsorships for a charity I was a hired gun for was not talking to CEO’s/Corporate Ladder Underlings and Entrepreneurs differently.

    CEO’S and their followers are in the business of popularity contests. They’re desperate not to disappoint. Making decisions in these hierarchy’s are group based rather than individually.

    This is why the whole Teamy-Team work approach is promoted in corporate culture. In my opinion the word Team Work is a way of prettying up a Cover Your Ass paranoia.

    If the team/committee/board made the decision no one person is responsible for the outcome. And if you’ve done a good job of kissing the right heinie you won’t be the one who has to “Take one for the team” once heads need to roll.

    Risk was the fuel of choice for super fly entrepreneurs like Walt Disney, Rupert Murdoch and Howard Hughes. The last thing these super achievers were saddled by was the opinion of others. Especially wimpy weasels they knew were inferior to them.

    Here’s a list I culled from the Marketing Sherpa guys on the different language use when addressing CEO’S and entrepreneurs.


    Minimize your risks, Going one step at a time, Career, Spread the risk,
    Protect what you’ve built, Major career investment, Go straight down the middle, No conflicts, Free of controversy, Integration without disrupting anything, No interruptions, Nothing offensive about it, People won’t find anything to argue with, Won’t produce any arguments, Keeps everything controllable, Stays on an even keel, Don’t believe in radical change, Widely accepted, Don’t make demands on you, Known for not rocking the boat, Know how things are supposed to be done, Moderate, Restrained, Non-confrontational, Respectable, Not daring, Getting everyone on board, Get everyone’s agreement, Looking good, Creating the right image, inside and outside the company, Put all the possible objections to rest, Resolve everyone’s concerns, Achieve a consensus, Prudent, Thought through, Stable, Not subject to wide swings, No radical shifts.

    Entrepreneurial Seduction…

    Daring, Take someone on, Revolutionary, New, Play to win, Do an end run, Ambition, Goal-orientation, Competitiveness, Accountability, Override objections, Substantial change, Educated guess, Confront
    Bold people, Revolutionary, Flexible standards, Play to win, Ambition
    Stand out from the crowd, Terrific return on investment, Dramatic
    Accountability, Stand up and be counted, Pioneering, Intuition, State of the art, Feelings, Perception, Cutting edge, Pushing the edge of the envelope, Innovative, Experimental, New, Human ingenuity, Pioneering,

    Even though I blundered by not talking to these two different breeds the way they needed to be to feel secure, I still raised a helluva lot of money for the group I was working with.

    But had I used the platinum rule I would’ve helped even more children than I did.

    Don’t make the mistake I did. Follow Sonia’s expert advice and you’ll be well on your way to getting what you want by helping others get what they want. (Like my rip off of Zig there?)

    Talk to you again soon,
    Note Taking Nerd #2

    Note Taking Nerd #2s last blog post..If I Could Hear The Questions You Ask Yourself Would I Think I Was In The Presence of a Leader Or a Victim?

  13. “They prefer a solution that’s packaged for convenience” – loved it a lot!
    I truly believe that customers actually want 3 things:
    - time
    - quality/expertise
    - human touch
    and I am a huge fan of packaged service offering.

    Alik Levin | PracticeThis.coms last blog post..Program Yourself For Extremely Fast Performance

  14. Vince says:

    You mean there are people who don’t like Yak butter????

    Vinces last blog post..What do you get if you cross Perl CGI with Mod-PHP?

  15. J.D. Meier says:

    I leverage a sounding board and Six Thinking Hats where possible.

    I keep my sounding board informal and agile. I use a set of people that represent different perspectives, including my target customer set, but also some people who just think outside the bun.

    When things just aren’t working, I find 3 examples that are and model the best.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..7 Deadly Logical Sins

  16. Sonia Simone says:

    J.D. I love that, a system for getting out of your own head. Brilliant.

  17. I recently came across a great quote by Moliere: “It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”

    Customer satisfaction and loyalty should always be a major focus, even more so during economically challenging times. Online surveys are one of the best ways to gain insight into your customer’s mindset in order for you to market your product/brand as effectively as you can – especially when you can do the research for very little $$ or even for free.

    Studies have shown that loyal customers:
    Purchase your products and services again and again over time
    Increase the volume of their purchases
    Buy beyond traditional purchases, across product lines
    Refer your company’s products and services to others
    Become immune to the pull of the competition
    Give your company the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong
    Keep in mind:
    It costs 7-10 times more to recruit a new customer than to keep an existing one
    A gain in customer loyalty of only 5% can lift lifetime profits per customer by as much as 95%
    An increase in loyalty of just 2% is, in some sectors, equivalent to a 10% cost reduction

    ZoomerangBlogs last blog post..Boost Low Morale With Better Employee Communications


  1. [...] the territory they could cover, they just want a fast map to get where they want to go. Visit RemarkableCommunication.com for the complete [...]