This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020

Why Richard Branson prank-called his own company to speak with Richard Branson

Here’s some smart advice for your company from the billionaire.

Image: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

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 sometimes reaches out to customers or pretends to be a customer himself, he explains in his new 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:

I am so pathetically bad at imitating someone else’s voice that Penni, my trusted assistant for many years, sat there and let me make a complete fool of myself with some trumped-up complaint before saying, “Well, thank you so much for sharing all that with me, sir. Let me see if Mr. Branson is available to take your call.”
She then kept me hanging on for what seemed like an eternity — it was probably a couple of minutes — before coming back on the line to say, “Sorry, Richard, but you appear to be out of the office at the moment, can someone else help you?” before dissolving into howls of laughter.

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 or SME, 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:

So when you’re playing customer, one of the first things to do is to try and locate a phone number to call on your website that will enable you to get through to a real human being. If you can find the number — most organisations foolishly bury a contact number in some deep dark corner of the website after “Contact Us” has led you nowhere except back to the webpage you started on — try calling it and count how many recorded options, pre-screens and hand-offs you are forced through before you (perhaps) get to a real person.

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 and now cold towels are 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.

-Richard Feloni

More: Sure the ping pong is fun, but IT staff also want to do good work

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

Published with permission from:

Business Insider
Business Insider is a business site with strong financial, media and tech focus.

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel