7 Lessons in Customer Service from Richard Branson, Virgin America and Government

This past May, Forbes produced one of my favorite pieces of media (both a video and an article) on the subject of customer experience: 7 valuable customer service lessons in a day with Richard Branson and the Virgin America team by Carmine Gallo . Hinging on the video footage of Branson’s bubbly personality and genuine engagement, the subsequent article outlines the following customer service lessons:

1) Be visible.
2) Express a passionate commitment to serving the customer.
3) Your company’s employees are its greatest assets.
4) Hire the people who have the Virgin attitude.
5) Empower your employees to solve problems and to make every experience great.
6) Engage in social media with a genuine voice.
7) Have fun.

The most striking theme throughout these lessons is engagement with both employees and customers. Branson and his company are both constantly engaging, inviting feedback and providing disciplined and genuine responsiveness through every channel. While Virgin America is a very different organization from almost any entity in the public sector, most of these lessons can be applied to customer service in government. Specifically, we have exhibited these lessons through the Philly311 contact center.

Philly311 is both “visible” and “expresses a passionate commitment to serving the customer” through its extensive community engagement efforts. A Philly311 team regularly travels across the city to community events to spread the word about Philly311 and record feedback from customers. Our commitment is to serving the customer is also internally communicated through reader boards showing day-to-day customer service statistics and posters listing the Mayor’s goals and commitment to customer service.

Lessons 3,4,5 deal with employee engagement, something that Philly311 approaches in a few different ways. One of these ways is through a comprehensive training program to give employees the tools and resources they need to be successful. If employees feel confident in their ability to serve constituents, and feel they have the proper support, a culture of customer service excellence is easily developed.

The 6th lesson, “Engage in social media with a genuine voice” is one that I think Philly311 especially excels in. Philly311 has an agent manning its social media accounts during all hours of operations. This results in customers getting timely, human responses when they “Tweet” @Philly311 or post on our Facebook page.

While the 7th lesson “Have fun” seems like a difficult one to adapt as a government entity, it is worth taking Branson’s advice to not take yourself too seriously. Philly311 has a mobile phone character called MOBI (a large cell phone suit with a Philly311 member inside) who goes to different community events to spread the word about the Philly311 Mobile App. Efforts like this help remind our customers that we can have fun too and, hopefully, puts our customers more at ease.

Are these adaptations of Richard Branson’s customer service lessons helpful? Is your contact center adapting these lessons in similar ways? I would love to hear your feedback in our comments section.

0a87dc88be2bd3c4377aed9a2380550eRosetta Carrington Lue is the Chief Customer Service Officer and Senior Advisor to the City of Philadelphia’s Managing Director. Follow Rosetta on Twitter @Rosettalue or visit her blog at www.rosettacarringtonlue.com

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