The Golden Rule of Hospitality and Customer Experience

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Michel Falcon:

Welcome to the People-First Culture Podcast with me, Michel Falcon, where I share lessons I’ve learned, and those of others, on how to build a more purposeful business and career.

Hey, everyone. Thank you for joining me on this episode of the People-First Culture Podcast. If you are new to the podcast, welcome. I discuss all things related to company culture, employee performance, customer experience, and career growth, all to impact the growth of a company. If you are onto your second, third, or fourth episode, thank you so much for returning. I truly appreciate it. If you’re looking to connect with me online, I am at Michele Falcon everywhere, whether it’s LinkedIn or Instagram, Twitter so connect with me there.

I am in hospitality and restaurants, so often people turn to me to discuss all things related to hospitality and guest experience. A lot of the content that I produce is centered around employees and their performance, how you build high performing teams, because the outcome of that is a phenomenal customer experience that your customers want to come back and see again and again, buy more products and services from you, and that ultimately is what drives that long-term growth. This episode is on the golden rule of hospitality, and I want to reframe what that golden rule is. While I unpack that in a moment, what I’ve been up to for the past seven days has been really exciting.

I was just in New York for six days, looking for our first Manhattan location for my company, Brasa Peruvian Kitchen, and one of the things that I observed in Manhattan is directly tied to what I’m going to discuss today. Now, what is it that your customers care about the most? Each industry is different. There is no golden rule. The golden rule is the principle of treating others as one wants to be treated. I don’t believe that is true, because what matters to me in how I am delivered a product or a service might not matter as much or be as important to the next person, and that is the main thesis of this entire podcast. During our time together, I’m going to ask you to think critically about what it is that matters to your customers the most.

I like things in three. It’s a digestible number. Two is too little. Four or five is too many, but what three things matter to your customers, more than any other things that might impact the delivery of your service or your product? Aside from all this, I have been distracted today. I am recording this podcast four hours later than I was planning on, largely because I have been catching up on what is going on with the Silicon Valley Bank, and that ties into this podcast as well too, because what is it that matters to you when you go to your bank? I’m sure after what has happened with the Silicon Valley Bank, that might change our perception of banks and what matters to us the most.

So the golden rule of hospitality, again, is treating others as one wants to be treated, but I can tell you that what matters to me probably doesn’t matter to my mother as much, and here’s my example, using a bank. When I go to a bank, my preferred method is through an app. I don’t want to have to go into a bank unless I absolutely have to. If you think about it, going to a bank often is rather inconvenient. At least in downtown Toronto, there’s no parking ever, so I usually have to walk, which is fine, but given cold winter months in Toronto, it’s not enjoyable. But when I go to the bank, if I have to speak to somebody, I want the conversations to be very short. I don’t need to talk about the weather with the individual that is serving me at the bank.

I don’t need to talk about the local sports team, if they’re doing well. The number one thing I care about is speed. How fast can you get me out of this bank after having accomplished what I need to be done? That is the number one thing that matters to me, is speed. Now, if you think of the Silicon Valley Bank, what do I need from my bank? I think the number one thing would be is security in that they’re going to be able to withstand any financial crisis. For my mother, if she’s going to be serviced at the bank by an individual, she probably will put more attention and care more for everyday dialogue with the individual that’s serving. So those pleasantries of, “Hi, how are you?” or “Beautiful weather we’re having,” is something that may serve her well. That extra dialogue may build more rapport, and therefore more trust.

For me, the number one thing to be able to earn or develop rapport with me is speed. How quickly can you get me out of here? So perhaps, if I frame this differently, efficiency is what matters to me the most. If you think of myself as a customer and the demographic that I lie within, I’m technically a millennial. I’m 37 years old, and I’m used to things coming to me really quickly, which is why I default to wanting to have you use an app instead of going into a bank, whereas my mother, of a different generation, has been trained to go to deliver services and products or obtain them in person, where technology is secondary. When I was developing my career at 1-800-GOT-JUNK from the years 2007 to 2012, I was introduced to something called customer personality types.

At the time, it was presented to me as buying types, and now I’ve taken that and reframed it to customer personality types, but they’re in the same vein. I would be classified as a director style personality type. Efficiency matters to me. I don’t really have long-winded conversations with somebody at the bank, or any service or product supplier in my everyday life or even in my professional life. The director style personality types knows what they want, how they want it. The pleasantries are kind of kept to the side. We can be sometimes classified as rude, but it doesn’t have to be that way if there’s a recognition that this individual just wants to get the servicer product as fast as possible, so the pleasantries are pushed aside.

So that’s the director style personality type. The great thing about this personality type is that you can build rapport with them quite easily, as long as you have competence around your product and knowledge, so that if a customer asks your employees a question about your product or service, they should know the answer. Now, not everybody knows everything, so the answer to a question that the employee might not know about is, “I don’t know.” It’s, “That’s a good question. Let me find out for you. Please give me 30 seconds to go speak to my colleague.” That’s an acceptable answer to the director style personality type. The unacceptable answer is, “Actually, I’m not too sure,” and give a answer that doesn’t instill confidence in the director style personality type.

So think of that personality type. This individual, time is money. Often they’re not going to haggle over pricing, so long as the product or service is delivered to them in an expeditious fashion. Now, the next personality type is the socializer. This individual is the person that is talking about the local sports team, the customer that’s talking about the local sports team, the weather, their family pet, topics that are not on topic of why they are at the bank, at the dentist, or wherever they may be. The socializer personality type does not want an expeditious customer experience. They want to build rapport with the company that they’re doing business with. This individual is a great customer for many companies, because they’re very trusting in nature.

You can offer them new services and products if they trust you. If you spent the time to build rapport with them, talk to them about the things that matter to them, and often that could be the local sports team or their family pet, when you have that new product or new service, they will be more inclined to have that conversation with you, perhaps more so than the director style personality type, who you have to catch at the right time for a new product or service presentation. The socializer personality type can be a dangerous customer for making sure that you don’t have too many customers in your lineups “clogging up the line,” and the reason is because the challenge with them is making sure that they’re focused on the task at hand, right?

Because they are talking about their family dog or the local sports team when you really need them focused on this conversation piece, because you have seven other customers to serve who are waiting for your attention. Lastly, is this passive personality type. The passive is somebody that can be guarded and timid, or at least appear this way. They appear this way, because their conversations, similar to the director, can also be short. I’ll give you an example. If you’ve ever asked a customer, “How’s your day going?” and they respond with “Good,” but don’t ask you how your day is going in return, if that’s the case, you may have a passive personality type that you’re speaking to. Now, do not write these customers off as not engaged.

They may just not trust your company or your industry. I’ll give you an example. In my industry, specifically in my business, we serve fresh salads, warm bowls, smoothies, everyday products that people are familiar with, but our differentiating point is we leverage Peruvian flavors and ingredients. Now, for someone that is not familiar with Peru, and their cuisine and the flavors that come from the country, they may be a little guarded, a little timid toward this new type of cuisine, so they come to order their meals with their guards up, because they’re reading the menu boards. They’re reading things that are not immediately familiar to them, like Japanese or Mexican cuisine.

However, the passive personality type, to use another example, if you remember in the 90s and early-2000s, I believe this reputation has been removed from the industry, or perhaps I’m mistaken, but I remember the auto industry having a negative reputation for the “used car salesman,” the person that might appear to sell you something to maximize their wallet, rather than what you needed as the customer. When you would go to purchase a vehicle, you may have gone to that dealership with your guard up. People are asking you how your day is, and you’re questioning their motives, so maybe you were responding with “Good,” and you didn’t ask them how their days were going in return, because you were guarded. You were thinking that somebody was going to try to sell you something that you didn’t need.

So we may have all been passive personality types on the surface when doing business with this industry. Now, back to my industry. So this guest comes and orders, and they appear to be a bit guarded. Our team members kind of embrace them, walk them through the menu, perhaps give them a sample of a piece of our protein or give them a sample of our salad dressing, and then they eat it, and they really like it. You see, their guard starts to come down. That trust is starting to grow. What would’ve happened if our team members didn’t guide him through that new experience? They would’ve never come back. They may have never even ordered in the first place, because too many companies write this customer personality type off as they’re boring or, “I don’t like talking to them. They don’t talk enough, and I just don’t enjoy them.”

Well, it’s because they’re unfamiliar with your product or your service, and they’re just trying to build trust with you. I have found that the passive personality type can be some of your most loyal customers, because so many companies write them off and disregard them as “boring customers,” but when they find a company that helps them bring their guard down, they can be extraordinarily loyal to those companies. With the director style and the socializer, it’s pretty clear to understand what they need to be able to develop loyalty with the company. The director is, “Give me the product as fast as possible. Make sure it works.” In my case, it’s, “Make sure it’s delicious.” The socializer is, “Engage with me a little bit. Let’s build a relationship based on something other than your product or your service.”

Whereas the passive requires a little bit more effort, a little more time, and I believe that that passive customer personality type actually knows that they may not be the easiest customer. They may not say that to themselves, but it does require a little bit more effort. Because of that, they value the companies that spend a little bit more time with them; therefore, they’re more likely to share the loyalty and return, and can be some of your most loyal customers that patronize you all of the time. So for me, the golden rule of hospitality is not your choice. Something that matters to me might not necessarily matter to the next customer, so how can we have a golden rule that treating others as one wants to be treated, when different people want to be treated different ways?

So, think of your industries and what matters the most to each of these customer personality types. For my industry, flavor, price, and speed matter. Friendly is an added bonus, but imagine if my company delivered a friendly service with good pricing, and it was fast. I don’t think I would be around for very long, because I’m missing the flavor component. Now, think of an accounting firm. What matters to the customer of an accounting firm? Well, for me, are the documents filed on time with accuracy? Those are table stakes. Those are 1A and 1B for me. Friendly, sure. I’ll take friendly. I’m never going to say, “No, I don’t want a friendly customer experience.” I’m not too sure of anybody who would reject that, but I can’t see friendly being 1A or 1B.

Maybe it’s the second, third, or fourth reason that would matter to me in delivering or in me staying loyal to a company. Think about your industry. Think about your customers. What truly matters to your customers? Now, you’re going to think of one to five things, perhaps. Remember, I like things in a three, but if you think of three things for your industry or for your company, here’s the next step. Walk to five different people, or email them if you’re a remote company. Ask five people in your company and say, “What are the three reasons why our customers are loyal to our company, our service, or our product?” If you don’t hear the same three responses that you had, then there’s an opportunity to get aligned behind what those three things are. Maybe you’re not right.

Maybe somebody on your team pinpointed the three things in order of priority and importance to the customer. Maybe your three isn’t accurate with the actual reality of what your customers care about the most. Now, of course, how do you find out what matters to your customers the most? It can’t be anecdotal. Well, for us at Brasa Peruvian Kitchen, who we use Net Promoter Score. We use our Google Reviews, and we host customer interviews, because we can’t just think of what those three things are that matter to our customers. Because, aside from that, how are we supposed to build something that our customers have never seen before, to differentiate ourselves against competition, if we don’t even know what matters to them? What if we go build something entirely different from what they actually want?

Sometimes innovation doesn’t even have to happen. Sometimes you just have to speak to our customers and ask them, “what matters to you the most, in priority? What are must-haves, and what are nice-to-haves?” For me, flavor, price, and speed are must-haves. Nice-to-haves would be friendly. For people like my mother, who’s a socializer, friendly might rank higher than speed, because she’s a little bit more patient. But for the director style personality type, speed matters more than friendly, so you see I kind of threw a wrench in that. There could be a top three for each customer personality type, and that’s okay. Does it make it more challenging? Of course it does. But this is why customer experience is so hard to get right.

This is why you, as a consumer, get frustrated by poor customer experiences with the same airline, and an airline’s never an easy industry to pick on, by the way. Pardon me. It is easy, but it’s not always fair. Think of how difficult that industry is, so by no means am I picking on this industry, but it goes to show three things. The top three things that matters to a director are going to be different than the top three things that matter to a socializer or a passive. The first exercise for you to get aligned with your team is to individually write down, “What are the three things that we believe our customers, what matters to them the most?”

Then, from there, you can start segmenting it by director, socializer, and passive. So this podcast episode was to kind of make sure that you realize that the golden rule of hospitality isn’t treating others as one wants to be treated, because what matters to me doesn’t necessarily matter to you. Thank you all so much for listening to this episode. I’m absolutely thankful that anybody even comes to listen to one minute of what I have to share. If there’s a specific topic that you would like me to speak on, please email me directly. My email address is I am at Michele Falcon everywhere online. Thank you so much, and I will see you on the next episode.




Michel travels the world speaking at annual conferences and company events. His speaking topics are focused on customer experience, employee engagement and company culture. To have him speak at your event, contact him directly.