Monday, July 26

Great customer service starts at the top

Everybody needs an idol, someone we can look up to, someone who can inspire us to make a move in the correct direction.

And my Idol? Well, I have a few, and Sir Richard Branson, the flamboyant founder of Virgin Group is one of my favourite.
The Virgin Guy himself!

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.


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.


ChinkyGirLMeL said...

Wow...I am going to have a few people from the office read this. This is definitely worth reading. =)

Anonymous said...

Sadly, there are organisations subscribing to the "when the chain breaks" even if an individual would like to better himself/herself in serving others, they might have to think twice about doing they might get chastised for doing the right thing!

Anonymous said...

Great leaders start from the bottom ;)

khengsiong said...

Richard Branson is different from other entrepreneurs in the sense that others stick to one business, while he keeps creating new ones. He is really great...

~Pink Miu Miu~ said...

Nice entry but I am shy to mention in my blog so shall say it here which is my boss, my mentor, my idol whom i look up both in work & life, Val :).

A motivating boss makes your work more than work and pump you in more passion..

Anyway, she is more than a boss to me and i love her oops haha :D

Lily Riani said...

i've been meaning to buy his book, not sure which one is the best. recommandation?

iamthewitch said...

I like Sir Richard Branson too... Was blown away when I read his biography, the first ever biography I read in paperback.

MKL said...

One of the people I truly respect is our former prime minister and president Janez DrnoveŇ°ek [pronounced Yanis Der-know-shek] (1950-2008). He died 2 years ago of cancer. He contributed a lot to our independence in 1991, he was very influential and respected through out Yugoslavia and made our change to sovereignty and capitalism smooth. He was PM from 1994-2002 and president from 2002-2007, during his time we became one of the most successful post-communist states, we joined NATO, EU, the Schengen and Euro zone. In his last years he wrote books about spirituality and many Slovenians saw him more than a politician. He was for example the only foreign president who traveled to Bolivia in 2005, when they elected the first indigenous president Evo Morales. He fought for the people in Darfur, he met with the Dalai Lama. He spoke 6 languages fluently. One of his famous quotes:

“Today the fate of humankind is even more crucially linked than ever before. The boundaries between the problems of "others" and "our" problems are being increasingly erased.”

Anonymous said...

There are all sorts in any human organization - for better or worse...

Netster said...

I read some where (I hope I got it right) Virgin's Boss in the only Boss in airlines that go through Customer complain personally. He puts the complain box in the middle of the airport and he would read them every morning. (correct me if I'm wrong) When I heard that, I already admire him.

My Idols, Zig Ziglar. I great motivator and a great sales men!

Wenny Yap said...

It's definitely the way to go but this kind of boss are rare! Many like to emulate him but fail miserably coz they are not really passionate about customer needs but their own needs to make the $$$.

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