As chair of the massive Virgin Group, Richard Branson can’t possibly stay on top of everything going on at each of his companies, which include airlines, a mobile service provider, and an upcoming hotel chain.
But to ensure that his customer service employees are maintaining his vision for the company, he’ll sometimes reach out to customers or pretend to be a customer himself, he says in his book, The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership.
One time, he writes, he even tried masking his voice on a customer service call to one of his companies, demanding to be put in touch with — who else? — Richard Branson. He writes:
While he tells the story for a laugh, Branson makes a valuable point. Whether you’re an executive at a major corporation or the founder of a startup, you should never get so caught up in management and business strategy that you forget that you’re providing a product or service for the benefit of customers.
To that end, it’s not a bad idea to occasionally check up on your customer service staff by giving them a call and seeing how they handle your questions.
Start by going to your company’s website, Branson says:
If they handle your problem well, consider identifying yourself as the boss, he says, and praise them for their efforts. And if the experience is a nightmare, consider contacting their supervisor and explaining that they’ll need to address the issue with their team.
Branson says he used to regularly cold call Virgin Atlantic business-class customers to ask about their experience.
He also writes down observations about his own experiences as a Virgin customer, such as when he noted that he and fellow Virgin America passengers didn’t want a hot towel offered to them on a scorching Las Vegas day. He took that bit to management and had the policy changed to having cold towels offered on hot days.
Branson writes that in his many years of business experience, he has found that unhappy customers who have a problem handled quickly and effectively end up being more loyal than if they never had a problem at all.
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