The Golden Rule:
Why is Good Customer Service the Right Thing to Do?

Dr. Paul J. Pavlik, August 12, 2020

Company owners often get hung up with their profitability numbers; it would seem irrational to think otherwise. If you run or plan on running a business, customer service, however, should be one of your main priorities. Without customers, no business would exist and, without repeat customers, future success and any profitability would be difficult at best. Keep in mind that it is relationships that matter; successful transactions and added revenue are a positive by-product of an outstanding and ethical customer service program. Therefore, keeping your customers happy, both short and long term, is the key to running a successful, profitable, and long-lasting business.


How can you keep customers happy? One way is to think about what would make you happy during your everyday dealings with others and/or their businesses. In a world where questions of ethics and moral dilemmas often arise, having a high standard that you can refer to in your decision-making processes can be invaluable. If you deal with everyone else (clients, employees, vendors, etc.) by this high standard, your business and life, in general, will prosper.

The ethical decision-making questions that every one of us faces daily can be solved by following one simple guideline — “The Golden Rule”. This is not the rule that says, “He, who has the gold, rules.” When considering the right path, you need to ask this question: “How would I like to be treated in this situation?” The Golden Rule simply means that you will not take advantage of someone or lie to get ahead because you would not want others doing that to you. The Golden Rule is short, succinct and powerful.[1] It is not a promise of success but is simply a belief system that works for success. It’s easy to dismiss the concept of ethics as less important than other areas of your business and leave them out of the day-to-day processes. But, keep in mind that it is the relationships that matter.

[1] Maxwell, John C., Ethics 101, What Every Leaker Need to Know.  ISBN-10: 0446578096, ISBN-13: 9780446578097. 05/11/2005. Center Street

This High Standard is for Everyone

How does the world view this concept?

If you believe that everyone likes and wants to be treated well, even those that have trouble treating others with respect and kindness, then take a look at some of the many variations on The Golden Rule that help govern other peoples’ lives, regardless of their geographical location, philosophy, race, or religion. This is not a commentary on any particular belief system or a recommendation on what path you should follow, but it is, quite frankly, what governs most of humankind. It is not a commandment or a law; it is simply the right thing to do. Whether you are spiritual or not, most of us agree that the concepts espoused by the varied religions of the world often give us guidance on how to treat and live in harmony with others. If you are open to that belief, consider how variations on Golden Rule philosophies have been described by the world’s greatest religions, such as:

  • Christianity: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.”
  • Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the entire Law …”
  • Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he loves for his neighbor what he loves for himself.”
  • Buddhism: “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.”
  • Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”
  • Zoroastrianism: “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others.”
  • Confucianism: “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
  • Bahai: “Choose for your neighbor that which you would choose for yourself.”
  • Jainism: “A man should wonder about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.”
  • Yoruba: “One taking a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.”

In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, where companies start, succeed and fail at an alarming rate, having a solid set of ethical values could be just what your company may need to stand head and shoulders above the rest. With this in mind, let’s look at how The Golden Rule breaks down practically and see how implementing it into your business strategy and daily operations can pay off, now and into the future.


Building your reputation.

One of the most valuable possessions that you have is your personal and corporate reputation, and it’s important to guard it at all costs. Profits can be lost and regained, but rebuilding a damaged reputation is far more difficult. Each time you live up to The Golden Rule, your reputation is enhanced; each time you fail, it is diminished.[1] A cut-throat business strategy may work at first but, over time, it will destroy the very environment it needs for its own success. Go above and beyond what’s required of you. Doing so will help to preserve your reputation and pay off significantly in the long run.

[1] Reichheld, Fred. Harvard Business Review.

Improving the customer experience.

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.[1] The simple solution to having a satisfied customer base is your ability to put yourself in your client’s shoes. It’s easy for small companies to give customers the attention that they need but, as a company expands, this usually becomes more difficult. But, even as a company grows, it’s important to remain true to its ethical roots — to continue to recognize and meet its customers’ expectations and to provide excellent service. In other words, you need to treat customers how they want to be treated because that’s the way you would want to be treated.

[1] Ford, Henry. Quote.

What if you don’t treat your customers the way they want to be treated?

When customers feel mistreated or misled, they leave and worse, they complain. Complainers are costly. How costly? Complainers demoralize your employees, and they badmouth your company, alienating your current and future prospects both internally and externally. Studies show that customers are far more likely to complain about a negative experience than they are to talk about a good one. For example, news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many people as praise for a good service experience, a whopping 91% of unhappy customers will stop doing business with you (and they won’t come back), and 96% of unhappy clients won’t complain to you, but they will tell 15 friends — say goodbye to those future clients.[1]

Therefore, treating customers well is important for their satisfaction and retention (and your company’s overall success, both now and in the future). You need to keep them happy so that they will continue to come back for more.[2] 

[1] Reputation Refinery.

[2] Hayden, Brenton. Entrepreneur, September 11, 2016.

Leading to a satisfied workforce. If, as owners and managers, we treat our employees the way that we would like to be treated, we are rewarded with a dedicated, talented and loyal work force that will consistently meet the needs of the marketplace.[1] One of the best ways to assemble a team that’s driven, motivated and supports you, is by treating them well. A satisfied workforce will be motivated to provide great service to your customers, and they’ll be more loyal to your company as well.

[1] Gensier, Harry J. Ethics and The Golden Rule. Routledge, 2013. ISBN: 0415806860, 9780415806862

From Now On, Do the Right Thing

Sure, we’d like to say that we uphold The Golden Rule in our professional lives — but when it comes down to it, do we really do that? How often do we ensure that ethics are held in the same regard as our financial goals? Are morals ever measured as diligently or given as much consideration as our ROI spreadsheets? It’s easy to dismiss the concept of ethics as less important than other areas of business and leave them out of the day-to-day processes. But, far from using laissez-faire concepts that have no real place in the business world, it’s important to recognize that ethics are directly tied to a company’s long-term success.

When you think about it from a practical standpoint, applying The Golden Rule in business makes a lot of sense. Consider reciprocating: treat your customers right and they’ll be happier, more likely to come back — and more inclined to recommend you to friends and family. Treat your workers fairly, and they’ll be motivated to provide excellent service, which leads to satisfied and committed customers. And the numbers don’t lie. In most industries, companies that are the reciprocity leaders have a compound annual growth rate that is more than twice that of their competitors. Likewise, treating your workers well has been shown to lead to excellence, which of course, results in increased profits.

The best companies know that, as I said before, relationships rather than transactions are what matter, something that is at the heart of the Golden Rule. Treat others like people, not numbers, and put yourself in their place once in a while. It’s not as complex as some of the other business philosophies out there, but it undoubtedly encompasses many of them as well.

So, get started by dusting off the Golden Rule and putting it to work in your customer service department. Then, employ this rule throughout every aspect of your company and professional career. Using it to guide your actions will most definitely pave the way for sustainable, long-term growth. As it turns out, following The Golden Rule will help you to go far — in life and in business as well.

If you believe that, in order to be a winner, others have to lose, you need to seek a change. If you want to do for others what you would expect for yourself, reciprocate by showing appreciation for each and every customer by fostering a winning situation for all which will result in positive results for all — clients, employees, investors, and yourself. Remember to always treat everyone the way you want to be treated – IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO.