I recently came across a great interview conducted by one of my favourite customer service authors, Micah Solomon, who was lucky enough to interview Sir Richard Branson. Wow, a great customer service guru and the world’s best entrepreneur both of whose opinions I really value. So I thought I’d share some of the key take-outs from Micah’s excellent interview.
Offering genuine service
On the topic of making customer service interactions real, Branson stressed the importance of team members being personable and tailoring their service to the customer and the customer’s situation. He said “we are very anti-scripting” he wants his people to be seen as real and genuine and not delivering “Stepford Wives customer service.”
This is so critical in today’s competitive market, team members need to be able to relate to all types of customers in different situations. That’s why we always recommend hiring on attitude and personality and train for skills. We need people in retail who are passionate, love helping customers and making a difference. I know it’s hard to find great people but they are out there and customers love them.
I believe team members need guidelines and clear expectations, particularly when it comes to customer service, but they also need to understand the reasons why these expectations are important to the customer. Then they need to add their own personality.
Turning complaints into lifelong friends
Another topic that Branson was very vocal about was the need to respond very quickly to customer’s needs and issues. “We need to hear those complaints in the first place and right away.” Virgin focuses strongly on monitoring various social media channels and responding quickly. This is one of the biggest issues I reported recently when customers complain but hear nothing back. Virgin have this as the key focus, although as Branson said: “It’s hard work, but it’s the direction the world has gone and we want to be on top of it.”
His philosophy of actively asking for feedback from customers provides the opportunity to turn that customer into a lifelong friend. “We really think if we address a complaint well, and even involve the customer in the solution, it brings customers closer to our brand.” What a brilliant approach to dealing with complaints.
Why leaders need to be positive
Branson is a staunch believer in leaders have to focus more on praise than criticism. “I prefer to praise employees for what they are doing right and it tends to lead them to do more of the same. Not always, but it’s the way I choose to bet.” This is a fundamental belief in our business and we teach managers to focus more on catching their team doing something right – and telling them. Don’t hold back the praise and think “it’s about time.” As Branson says praise it and they will repeat it.
Empowering team members improves results
I have written before on Branson’s big focus on empowering people via delegation. He says “Empowerment is essential. I like to hire great employees at every level of the organisation.” Once again the importance of hiring the right people comes through. Then it’s a case of training them to do the job you want them to do and let them go. Micro-managing kills any team member’s creativity and initiative, as well as being so time consuming for the manager.
Branson believes in providing team members with the right toolbox so they can do their job properly and then support them to grow. One technique is to get feedback from team members on how to improve certain processes, ask for their input on uniforms etc. when team members feel their opinion is asked for and valued it massively increase motivation and buy in.
Thanks, Micah for sharing this insightful interview with the world’s best!
Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.