Video Transcript

00:12 Eric Schurenberg: What does the Virgin brand stand for across all those companies?

00:16 Richard Branson: Well, I think the Virgin brand is synonymous with a number of different things, depending on what kind of companies, but I mean, I think, people see the Virgin brand as not taking itself too seriously. It's a fun brand, an adventurous brand. It generally offers great quality at great value. It's a people brand. So I think that its a challenges... A challenger brand. And then we take on organizations much bigger than ourselves, so we like to play the David versus the Goliath role and it's a lot more fun being David than Goliath. Sometimes, you end up flattening your face as a result because Goliath has very, very big feet, especially in the case of someone like Coca Cola. On other occasions, we manage to succeed.

01:14 Schurenberg: I would say that customer service is a key part of that brand and you focus an awful lot on that. So much so, in fact, that when Virgin took over NTL Telewest, the cable and broadband provider in the UK which did not have a good reputation with customer service, you kept the Virgin name off that company until you had brought it up to your standards. Could you walk us through how you managed to improve the customer service end at that company?

01:39 Branson: Yeah, I think there are two set of examples, actually. One, where we actually changed the brand straight away, which... Where we took over a dilapidated chunk of Britain's rail network from British Rail and we called it Virgin Trains despite the fact that the track was still broken, the trains were still broken. And we went out there to educate the public that we were gonna do something about it and that we were going to buy high-speed tilting trains, and that we were going to turn it from the worse into the best. And it was hard work. I mean for four years, people would be sitting on broken down trains with a Virgin brand on it. We were in danger of damaging the Virgin's reputation. But somehow, by educating them, by doing lots of conferences showing the new trains being built, and then delivering spectacularly, we brought the public with us. And the end result was when the government actually chose to take our franchise away last year there was an absolute outcry in Britain. So it was a risky strategy, but ultimately it pulled off.

03:05 Branson: With NTL Telewest, they had a dreadful service and didn't seem to care about the customer at all. And on that occasion we decided not to brand it until we'd actually sorted out all the back-room customer service issues or as many as possible. And so when we actually did brand it, we had most of those issues sorted out. Two different approaches. Somehow it worked with Virgin Trains, perhaps it would've been better for us not to have re-branded for the first three or four years, but people would've known ultimately it was us, so... So hopefully, we did the right thing. With Virgin Media, we had the luxury of obviously having fantastic people in all, a lot of Virgin companies, and so being able to bring to the best marketing and customer service people in from other Virgin companies to imbue the company with the Virgin culture. And ultimately, it came true.