the ceo magazine, customer satisfaction,
Merrick Rosenberg, Author, The Chameleon & CEO of Take Flight Learning 

What does it mean to “satisfy” a customer? A typical business executive might tell you that it means fulfilling unmet needs with a product or service. I would argue that’s only half the story. To satisfy customers, we also have to meet inner needs rooted in personality.

The four personality styles of the DISC model shed light on these intrinsic needs. Generally, people identify with one personality style or a combination of two. I represent the four styles with birds to make them easy to remember:

  • Eagles are Dominant, results-driven, decisive, direct, and authoritative.
  • Parrots are Interactive, social, enthusiastic, optimistic and entertaining.
  • Doves are Supportive, cooperative, humble, patient, and harmonious.
  • Owls are Conscientious, logical, prepared, diplomatic, and private.

In sales, marketing, support, or any interaction with customers, most of us treat people how we like to be treated. If I’m a blunt Eagle, I’ll get right to the point, regardless of the customer. The problem is that other people don’t necessarily want what we want. Instead, we must treat customers how they like to be treated. Like a chameleon, we must identify the customer’s style and adapt to it.

When your style is different from a customer’s, one of you will leave the interaction exhausted, and it better be you. Flexing takes energy but creates satisfaction.

From the call center to the boardroom, your team can mirror customers’ personality styles. The key is to talk how they talk. To illustrate, let’s imagine that your company’s software platform just went down, and you receive calls from each personality type:

An Eagle might say, “Your software is down. We need it fixed now.” In tense situations like this, Eagles speak loudly and show their anger. They mean business.   

You can almost feel the impatience and demand for action. So, you respond in kind: “Let’s solve this quickly. I’m going to…” To satisfy an Eagle, you get straight to the point.  

A Parrot might say, “Hey! How are you? So, your software seems to be down! We’re all pretty flustered here! And…”  

Parrots can talk for a while. They speak emotively and often go to extremes. You will feel their stress. To validate their emotions, perhaps you say, “Oh no! That’s terrible! Let’s discuss what we can do.” You make the solution a social, team endeavor.

In contrast, a Dove might say, “Hey, I’m so sorry to bother you guys, but your whole software platform seems to be down.”

Doves speak in almost apologetic tones even if you made a mistake. They don’t want to hurt your feelings, but they are probably angrier than they’ve let on. You reply, “I understand you’re upset. I’m so sorry you’re having this problem. We’re going to take care of it.” Reassurance and empathy comfort the Dove.

Finally, an Owl calls in: “Hey, your platform is down. I tried resetting it. I tried logging in with the administrator user name. We checked your status page to see if others are experiencing this problem…”

Owls give detailed explanations to ensure that you understand the whole situation. They want things to work correctly. Owls will run through all the steps they’ve taken to diagnose and address the issue. You might say, “That shouldn’t be the case. Let’s figure out what went wrong.” This problem-solving mindset mirrors the Owl’s approach.  

When you mirror personality styles, you make customers feel understood. You create space to fix a problem, close a sale, or secure a partnership. When you flex to the wrong style though, you can undermine your goals. Just imagine using the Parrot’s line on an Eagle:

Parrot: “Oh no! That’s terrible! Let’s…”

Eagle:  “Yeah, no kidding. What are you going to do about it?”

The Eagle is going to get mad that you restated the obvious and wasted time. Likewise, telling an Owl, “Let’s solve this quickly,” could backfire. The Owl would question if you even know what’s wrong. Owls want things done properly, not quickly. He or she wants to see a systematic, logical response.

Flexing takes effort. It’s not natural. But, when we treat others the way they wish to be treated, we satisfy needs that no product or service can ever fulfill. 


About the Author

Merrick co-founded Team Builders Plus in 1991 and Take Flight Learning in 2012. He is the author of The Chameleon and co-author of Taking Flight!, two books about personality styles. Merrick received his MBA from Drexel University who recently selected him as the Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year. Under Merrick’s leadership, his company has been recognized as the New Jersey Business of the Year and named one of the Fastest Growing Companies and Best Places to Work in the Philadelphia area. Merrick has worked with more than half of the Fortune 100 companies in the US and around the world.

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