While the billionaire son of a barrister and flight attendant could easily take a break from the business spotlight, he chooses to continually shine it toward what he believes is a key differentiator for all brands including his own, and that’s customer service. In Forbes, Entrepreneur magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and on his own blog and Twitter (when Richard Branson tweets, it’s him, not an assistant or a PR firm), Branson consistently credits customer service as a key to his companies’ and other companies’ success. And if Sir Richard Branson is willing to dress up as a female flight attendant and serve drinks in front of the cameras (even if it was the result a bet), you better believe he is willing to do whatever it takes to promote his brand’s service.
Here are five key words of advice for any customer-focused organization from The World’s Most Famous Customer Service Representative:
1. On setting realistic customer expectations from Entrepreneur magazine: “The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.
“If you are seizing on a new business opportunity, deliberately move your customers’ expectations up a few notches and consistently over-deliver on your promises — you will leave your competitors struggling to catch up.”
2. On hiring the right people and empowering them to do the right thing from Entrepreneur magazine : “Doing things better doesn’t have to cost more — all it takes is a little creativity and attention to hiring, training and management.
“To achieve consistently terrific customer service, you must hire wonderful people who believe in your company’s goals, habitually do better than the norm and who will love their jobs; make sure that their ideas and opinions are heard and respected; then give them the freedom to help and solve problems for your customers. Rather than providing rules or scripts, you should ask them to treat the customer as they themselves would like to be treated — which is surely the highest standard.”
3. On responsiveness to customers from Live Mint and The Wall Street Journal: “A successful business must never lose its focus on its customers and its standards. Managers and executives need to be constantly on their guard and respond quickly to problems. Thanks to the Internet, the fallout from a badly handled complaint in London can reach the other side of the globe within seconds. When an issue turns up, a company’s response can have a big impact on its reputation and its long-term success.”
4. On making a good first, and even better second, impression from the American Express Open Forum: “In business, creating a favorable impression at the first point of customer contact is an absolute imperative. Though everyone knows this, many companies still only manage to do a mediocre job at best.
“But what isn’t widely understood is… the customer’s second impression of the brand can be even more important than his first. The second interaction a customer has with your business usually involves something that has gone wrong — they’re having trouble using the product or service. Handled correctly, this is a situation in which a company can create a very positive impression. Sadly, it’s where things often go terribly wrong.”
5. On customer service as a business differentiator from Forbes: “Look, I think that when we started Virgin Atlantic 30 years ago, we had one 747 competing with the airlines that had an average of 300 planes each. Every single one of those have 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.”
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