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Richard Branson Reveals His Customer Service Secrets
Happy employees and happy clients are important parts to success. But just how does a small business owner go about making everyone happy?
Editors Notes: Richard Branson is the billionaire brilliant mind behind the mega-successful Virgin Brand line of products and service (you know, like the airline group and mobile carrier group). Carmine Gallo interviews Richard and Virgin America CEO David Cush, and uncovers seven tips to success that every business owner can use for their own improvement. Listen to the brief interview and jot down the ideas behind Branson’s billion dollar brands.
Click Here to Read This Video's Transcript
Carmine Gallo: Happy, engaged and empowered employees go above and beyond to satisfy the customer. That's one lesson I learned from spending the day with a very famous CEO who has built a brand many consider the gold standard in customer service, Merchant Group founder, Sir Richard Branson.
I accompanied Richard Branson on Virgin America's first flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. It's a new route for the airline. Virgin America had just been named the top domestic U.S. airline in the United States based on quality.
So I looked at this as an opportunity with Richard Branson, Virgin America, CEO David Cush and its employees to understand the secrets beyond their exceptional customer service experience.
I learned 7 lessons that all leaders can and should adopt if they hope to build successful companies.
Lesson #1: Be visible. Richard Branson says, "A good leader doesn't get stuck behind a desk."
Branson is always on the move, meeting employees, talking to cabin crews and soliciting feedback from passengers. He's constantly asking for their opinions, and he keeps a notebook of the ideas and feedback he's received.
Lesson #2: Express a passionate commitment to serving the customer. Customer service starts at the top, and it certainly does in the case of Virgin America.
Both Branson and Virgin America's CEO, David Cush, believe that a superior customer experience is the key ingredient to success in a competitive global economy, regardless of the type of business you're in.
Sir Richard Branson: Yes, look. Anybody can sell a cup of coffee. Anybody can buy a physical airplane, and we all buy the planes from the same manufacturers, Boeing or Air Bus. But they have their different stops.
If you fly on a Virgin plane, whether it's Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Australia, you know you're going to have a completely different experience than if you...
Carmine: What is the difference, the differentiation between Virgin America and all of these other domestic airlines that we see here? And I know than the in-flight entertainment. I know it's more than the Wi- Fi. I think, in my opinion, it's got to be the customer service. Am I wrong?
Richard: Everything in the end comes down to the customer service and the people who are serving you and whether they're proud of the company.
And the only way that you're going to actually have people working in a company that are proud of it is if you give them the tools. Give them every little detail.
Carmine: The details, according to Branson, are Virgin America’s features and amenities such as: new planes, mood lighting, leather seats and in-flight entertainment, which leads us to Lesson 3.
Your company's employees are its greatest asset. According to Branson, features and amenities might entice customers to try your product once, but it's the quality of the interaction with your people that encourages them to return.
Is customer service really the differentiator to move forward?
Richard: All right, let's give you an example. When we started Virgin Atlantic 30 years ago, we had one 747 competing with airlines that had an average of 300 planes each. Every single one of those airlines had gone bankrupt because they didn't have customer service.
They had might but they didn't have customer service, so customer service is everything in the end.
Carmine: Lesson #4: Hire people who have the Virgin attitude. Virgin America's very selective hiring only about 1 out of 100 people who apply. Those who make it are competent, friendly and committed to providing customers with a superior level of service.
David Cush: We look for people who are number one, positive. Number two, are friendly and just have a good outlook on life and who are "glass half full" people. So that's the first thing we look for.
And then of course, we make sure they've got the technical capabilities of mastering the job, which generally they do. And once you have that, that's 90% of the battle.
Carmine: Lesson #5: Empower your employees to make every experience great. Once you hire the right employees give them the best training. Then let them use their imagination and creativity to solve problems.
David: So when we talk about empowerment what we're saying is we will teach you the basics. We expect you to use your imagination and your brain power to solve the rest of it, to kind of connect the dots. And then, as we also always say in our company, "It's better to ask forgiveness rather than permission." If you think you need to do something, do it."
Carmine: Lesson #6: Engage in social media with a genuine voice. Branson sends out his own Tweets. He doesn't delegate his Twitter account. Branson believes in having an authentic voice on social media. Virgin America itself has a full time team of 3 people who respond to every customer comment and question on Twitter.
Lesson #7: Whether you're on Twitter or in person, have fun. Don't take yourself too seriously. Let your hair down every once in a while.
As part of its recruiting process, Virgin America looks for people who are smart, capable, enthusiastic, and who have a sense of humor. Their boss shares all those qualities, especially the sense of humor.
Branson is up for anything, and his employees love to see it. He has fun, and so do they. If you're not having fun, neither will your employees. And your customers will notice. The customer experience is everything, and it begins with you.