And my Idol? Well, I have a few, and Sir Richard Branson, the flamboyant founder of Virgin Group is one of my favourite.
Mr Branson was a self-made millionaire with a chain of mutually exclusive businesses, ranging from airlines, mobile phones, trains to soft drinks and space travel. He was never shy about making a joke out of himself (like being fully naked with a Virgin card placed strategically to protect his modesty), or to put tongue-in-cheek advertisements on national newspapers to challenge rival companies.
Having been through tons of failures in his search for success, he has written books and articles, which I am a great fan of.
Today, I shall copy and paste an extract from one of his article entitled “Great customer service starts at the top”.
Let's look at another story that clearly demonstrates the importance of every link in the service chain - this time involving Virgin Atlantic.
An Upper Class customer's free limo failed to connect with him at his New York City hotel. (It turned out the customer had been waiting at the wrong door.) He jumped into a cab to Newark Liberty International Airport, a fair distance from the city. Rush-hour traffic was bad; by the time he got to the airport he was very angry, running late and panicking that he'd miss his flight.
The first Virgin agent he located immediately seized control of the situation. She calmed the fuming customer, apologising profusely and assuring him that he would not miss his flight. From her own pocket, she refunded the taxi fare he had paid, then she rushed the passenger through a staff lane and got him to the gate with 10 minutes to spare.
Truly a job well done. Like the leather jacket incident, it demonstrates how great customer service can convert a negative into a positive.
WHEN THE CHAIN BREAKS
Now we come to the part of the story where the chain breaks. During the post-flight debriefing, the agent told her supervisor what had happened and asked to be repaid for the US$70 ($96) cab fare. Rather than congratulating the agent on saving the day, the supervisor asked whether she'd gotten a receipt for the fare.
When her answer was, "There was no time for that," he actually chastised her. He said, "No receipt, no reimbursement. You'd better take more care next time."
Clearly, the supervisor was more concerned about rigid adherence to accounting practices than about employee initiative. While fiscal accountability is important, especially when an outlay of cash is involved, there will always be occasions when an asterisk needs to be marked on the balance sheet.
One thing was certain: Any Virgin employees witnessing their supervisor's scornful reaction to their colleague's exemplary deed would be unlikely to display the same resourcefulness. Which means that the customer loses - and so does the entire company.
Happily, the story came to the airport manager's attention and he quickly took steps to redress the imbalance between company procedures and customer service. He advised the finance team that he'd approved the cash shortfall, while the supervisor got a quick refresher on how important we at Virgin think it is to "catch people doing something right".
Eventually I heard this story, and it truly impressed me. The next time I flew through Newark, I made a point of seeking out the agent who had made us proud. I remarked: "I don't have a taxi receipt, so you probably can't help me."
Her astonished smile said it all.
No company can train its front-end people to handle every situation, but you can strive to create an environment in which they feel at ease "doing as they would be done by".
Good customer service on the shop floor begins at the very top. If your senior people don't get it, even the strongest links further down the line can become compromised, as the story shows.
Pardon this copy and paste job, because I will love to have paraphrase this story, but no one tells it better than Sir Richard Branson himself!
To end this post, I will love to hear about who your idol is. It doesn't have to be business or work related, just anyone whose words carry some weight and bring some positivity to your life. Now tell me. ^_^
About the Author: Shingo T once wanted to write a letter to the Virgin Group on why they should hire him.