Written by Jason Grills
Virgin Group CEO, Sir Richard Branson has become a name to reckon with in the business world. Among a lot of other factors behind his success, exceptional customer service has always stood out. Known for delivering valuable experiences to his customers, Richard Branson has carved a learning path for every business that is striving to improve its customer satisfaction rates.
Dyslexic, considered slow by most of his teachers, a school drop out, Sir Richard Branson is a true example of how determination and hard work can change the course of your life. The founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson is a rare leader who has elevated the level of customer and employee experience to a level that has become a benchmark in the industry.
Among a lot of other factors, Branson has termed customers service as the core of his success. Known for his larger than life approach and creating memorable experiences for everyone, Sir Richard Branson is a brand in himself for exceptional customer service.
Making experiences better has been at the heart of every business innovation he has come up with, and he has cited three ways Virgin achieves this:
- By focusing on experiences to enjoy,
- relate to,
- or aspire to.
Here are 10 lessons that every leader and business can learn and adopt to build an excellent customer experience base.
- Always take feedbacks
In the words of the man himself, “A good leader doesn’t get stuck behind a desk.” You have to be out there with your employees and customers. Branson is always seen on the move, meeting employees, talking to cabin crews, and getting feedback from passengers.
He keeps a notebook of the ideas and feedback that he has received from customers and employees alike. Branson believes in creative leadership that is nourished by spending time in the field and living the customer’s experience.
- Put yourself in your customer’s shoes
Customers are not mere numbers and profits but real people with emotions. You can’t simply put your customer service on “autopilot” mode. Each customer is different and deserves to be treated well. Ask yourself this:
“Is this how I would want to be treated if I was the Customer?”
If your answer is a NO, then what makes you believe that your customers will be pleased with the similar set of services?
Always treat your customers the manner you would expect a brand to treat you.
- Say yes to new opportunities in customer service
Richard Branson did not achieve this tremendous success by saying “no” at opportunities to do new things.
“You could say no one gave our curious airline much of a fighting change… yet we survived and we thrived,” Branson said. “How did we do it? For starters, we changed the experience of flying and turned eight hours of transatlantic boredom into excitement and fun.”
Branson has always believed in being bold while approaching projects, making way for innovation, defying conventional wisdom, and saying “yes” to new ideas.
An example of his innovative wisdom lies in Virgin Atlantic being the first to introduce seat-back videos and focus on entertainment, and also upgrade food and comfort while in-flight.
- Express a passionate commitment to customer service
For Virgin America, customer service is always at the top. Both Branson and Virgin America CEO – David Cush believe that in a competitive global economy, superior customer experience is the key ingredient to success.
Once someone put this question in front of Branson, “What business is Virgin in?” The experience business, he replied. “Anybody can sell a cup of coffee. Anyone can buy an airplane and we all buy planes from the same manufacturers but there the difference stops. If you fly on a Virgin plane…you know you’re going to have a completely different experience.”
- Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
Honesty and faith form the crux of any business. Do not make wild promises to customers just to get them on board when you know you can’t deliver the same. When customers lose their trust and confidence in you, they are never coming back.
- Be honest with your customers
- Keep their expectations realistic
- Communicate properly
- Have a good customer support team
- Always keep your word
Honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s the only policy, notes Branson. When a mistake is made, don’t let it consume you. Uncover the problem and get to work fixing it.
- Your employees are your greatest assets
In one of his interviews, Branson has famously said, “if the person who works at your company is 100% proud of the job they’re doing, if you give them the tools to do a good job, they’re proud of the brand, if they were looked after, if they’re treated well, then they’re gonna be smiling, they’re gonna be happy and therefore the customer will have a nice experience.”
At Virgin Atlantic, employees are always put first. Branson believes that customers come back for the quality of the interaction they have with the employees. The features and amenities come second.
- Hire the right people and train them well
Virgin America is very selective with their hiring. They look for people who are competent, friendly, and committed to providing superior customer service. Virgin America CEO, David Cush once told, “the airline seeks out people who are positive, friendly, and who see life as “glass half-full.” Finding the right people is 90 percent of the battle, he says.
Once you have hired the right people, you need to equip them with the best training, allow them to use their creativity to solve problems. Empowerment of employees is a fundamental concept at Virgin America.
For example, during a fog delay in San Francisco, one Virgin America inflight team took it upon themselves to bring the first class drink cart out to the gate. Waiting passengers were offered a complimentary cocktail service before they boarded the plane. Those team members received a call from Richard Branson himself, congratulating them for finding a creative solution and keeping their customers happy.
- Lead by listening
Branson says, “As a leader, it’s vital to always be a good listener.” Communication is vital to success. Clear and transparent communication will keep things going for both customers and employees. You can start listening to your team, your customers, or even your peers.
Leaders listen and observe. If employees are aware that you are listening to the, they can communicate with you without any inhibitions. A lot of good customer service and experience depends on listening to the problems they are facing
- Pay attention to details
Having relevant details handy makes a huge impact for customer service. When you know every aspect of what, when and how your customers are looking for a service, you are more likely to deliver an outstanding customer experience.
“Frequently taking note of seemingly little things has become one of the keys to our success. As expectations change, experiences must evolve to. When making experiences, attention to detail matters,” Branson says.
When customers contact the customer service, it’s because they have a problem and they need instant answers for that. If you don’t know the details about your company’s business and products, you could be losing customers.
- Have fun with customer experience
Branson is constantly asked about “the secret” to his success. His response? There’s no secret. Hard work, smart work, and above all have fun while working in customer service. Branson has been known to say that if you have fun, work hard, that money will eventually come. He has also shared that when you stop having fun with what you’re doing, it’s time to move on.
You have to make the choice.
You can either endure work, or you can work and have fun while doing it. Choose to have fun. Choose to relax. Choose to loosen up and enjoy the moment, it only lasts once.
Customer service makes all the difference when it comes to establishing a successful business. Richard Branson has aced this area with some exceptional outlook and approach, something that each entrepreneur can incorporate in their business strategy.
Do you have any other suggestions to improve customer service? Leave your thoughts in the comment below.
Jason is a Sr. Technical Writer currently associated with ProProfs Chat. He enjoys writing about emerging customer support products, trends in customer support industry and the financial impacts of using such tools. In his spare time, Jason likes traveling extensively to learn about new cultures and traditions.