Everyone knows who Sir Richard Branson is. He’s the rock star of entrepreneurship and an idol to scores.
He’s started dozens of businesses in multiple industries, and when you hear ‘Virgin’ you think ‘global player’.
So when Virgin Money recently launched its life insurance product, Virgin Money Life, in South Africa it came as something of a surprise that the megastar himself appeared for the media briefing.
A man and his products
The product itself follows the modus operandi of Virgin, in that it shakes up the industry and provides consumers with what they really want – life insurance that isn’t a mission to sign up for, affordable premiums, and services that will help when it matters most.
But enough about the brand, let’s talk about the Branson. He’s clearly a very important and very busy man, and yet he took the time out to participate in a media briefing for the new product in a room of only a handful of journalists – a very low key affair and not a mega launch you’d expect from the likes of Virgin.
A lesson from the mouth of Branson
So when asked how and why he remains accessible to small businesses, entrepreneurs and the media, he had this to say:
“Staying in touch with the world and your customers is extremely important for not only your brand image, but for your business.
Through social media I have over 9 million followers. I obviously can’t read every comment, but I make it my business to glance through them twice a day and find the gems, ideas and feedback.
A while back we had an unfortunate racist incident in one of our Virgin Active Gyms, and because I saw it through monitoring my social media, I was able to get involved immediately and help fix the situation.
This was very important for the brand’s reputation as well as customer satisfaction, but most importantly it was about fostering that relationship of trust that is so valuable to our customers.
When customers stop trusting you and your business, they start looking somewhere else. So staying in touch, no matter how busy you are, is critical.”
How you can be Branson
Whether you’re a business owner, have promoted your staff, or have been promoted yourself, it’s a challenge with all the new responsibilities to avoid losing touch with employees and customers.
How Branson manages to stay in touch is by receiving feedback straight from the customer.
It’s not uncommon for news, particularly bad news, to get filtered and tweaked as it moves its way up the managerial food chain, until the story that’s presented to the CEO doesn’t even resemble the story it started out as. Without accurate information, appropriate action can’t be taken.
So, take the time to find out what your staff is actually doing on a day to day basis.
Observe operations, and if you can, roll up your sleeves and spend a day in their life doing what they do – whether it’s answering phones, taking orders, helping customers, you name it.
Get in touch with your customers using phone calls, social media, or engaging them at events to find out what’s really going on at ground level.
Remember, customers don’t care about your feelings the way management does. If they’re not happy with something, they’ll tell you.