Virgin Media, the communications company that doesn’t.

Well, trials and tribulations this is. Virgin Media (henceforth referred to as VM) a law unto themselves.

On Friday 24th February, like most of you, I came home from another days work and yay it’s the weekend. Except I had no internet when I got home. So I called Customer Services after bitching and whining on Facebook and Twitter.

Whats the Virgin Media phone number of the account holder or the account number? I don’t know, I’m not the customer, it’s my son. Frantically pressing buttons on my phone to try to bypass this first obstacle. Ah, success. The queue could be up to 10 minutes. Ok, I’ll bide my time, no problem. Some minutes later an international ringing sound.

Like most Customer Services these days, VM has its call handling centre in India. Apart from some language issues they mostly try to be helpful, are very polite and very courteous. This can grate on already annoyed customers. Everything my agent wanted to try seemed to take 2 minutes. I have no clue why. Maybe they put him in the corner out of the way in the Call Centre. He came back the second time and said there was a fault in the area. I said on the service status pages on the VM website there was, but it is now supposed to have been resolved. I checked again and lo and behold it had been updated showing a fault.

And that brings me to my next subject which I’ll quickly cover. If you provide customers with a ‘fix estimate’, but it can change numerous times and be for as long as you like, what is the point in supplying it? I understand what an estimate means, but it actually means nothing because they will change it as it suits them. So it has no value to the customer.

Anyway, to continue. So the suggestion was that it would be fixed by 3.50am Saturday morning. (So precise!)

I awoke the following morning and still no internet. Ya know, the service my son is paying for. I call again. It’s early so no queues. Straight through. Still India. This guy again, seems to be wanting to help me. He checks his system and says there is still fault in the area. But then my router clears and briefly allows me to access the internet. He says well you have internet now I can see that. I say, there isn’t anything showing on the VM service status page. He gives me a fault number F004812384 and telephone number I can call to get more details and an estimated fix time. The fist time he gave me the number he gave me 1800. I said I’m UK-based not US. He then gave me the correct number and the call ended. Almost immediately my internet goes again. D’oh!! I call the number and I have no way I can use the reference number as it is an automated system. Great! Saturday without internet access. Nice. I check the service pages periodically and although there are faults showing for my area there is nothing for broadband. I decide to just wait it out. Perhaps they have engineers trying to resolve it.

Eventually in the evening of Saturday I decide to call again. Yet again I get a really courteous and polite agent. He says it looks like there may be a fault outside the cabinet as it shows the connection is fine up to the cabinet (I guess he’s talking about those green cabinets you see on street corners which BT and VM seem to have exclusive rights to!) but beyond that it shows as disconnnected. He will arrange an engineer for Tuesday and credit on the account. I’m not happy with Tuesday, but that’s all he can do. No more internet.

So now it’s Sunday in the early hours. I still have no internet. I decided to give them a call. I’ve found the house telephone number in my contacts on my mobile phone. Armed with my new information I type it in. It tells me an engineer has been booked. Great! I then get the details and it says an engineer is booked for Friday 3rd March. Whaaaaat!!! For real? I go through to an agent. I explain that I am far from happy. A paid service, which isn’t a service at present aims to be resolved by Friday next? He runs some diagnostic stuff. He’s very apologetic. I rant and explain that VM determines the level of compensation the customer gets for no service (pro rata monthly payment) which is wrong. He said VM are the only company that do this. I said that does not take into account the inconvenience, the fact that I’ve had to make four calls and also that we have to wait until Friday for any resolution, possibly [and had to use my mobile hotspot as my internet provider which may prevent me from using it later on in the month or incurring additional costs]. He said they don’t have the resources in the area and more people would need to have a fault before it was escalated. I said that VM’s resources or lack thereof is not my problem (why is he telling me this?), my son is a paying customer and the issue needs resolving before Friday 3rd March. I explained that what he’s basically said to me (in fewer but much more polite words) is that if one customer calls with a fault, VM engineers sit around waiting for more calls. If two customers call the engineers scratch their heads and think about doing something, but if 250 customers call, they get off their arses and actually do something. He said that’s not the case. I said that even if one customer calls, VM should ensure that it is attended and resolved. It’s a paying customer after all. I suggested we would be better with another service provider who can actually provide a service. He says he can’t escalate it any more (not empowered enough apparently and its not his department to deal with complaints) so he will put me through to customer retention.

“I’m sorry, we are closed. You can call….” ERMAGHERD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I honestly don’t know if VM are aware, but this is my typical customer service experience from them and I’m sure many of their customers. It’s rare there is a problem with their systems, but when there is, they are the most incompetent at providing resolution in a timely manner. And a week?? And then to put me through to a department that’s closed. I mean, thats basic customer service. I’ve worked in customer services for 11 years prior to my existing job. If that was the kind of service I provided to my customers I would never have survived that long or indeed the business wouldn’t. Yet at VM it seems to be a daily occurrence. And we in the UK accept it.

So to conclude.

  • VM has no actual clue what Customer Service is, or at least doesn’t seem to based on evidence above and below
  • If you actually want some half decent Customer Service you may have to threaten to leave. But you may get put through to a closed department.
  • Being without service for a week as a paying customer is not a priority for VM. They’ll refund you pro-rata anyway, so who cares right? It’s not like it’s 200 customers or anything.
  • Transferring you to closed departments (not being business aware or empowered or thinking out of the box) is not a problem.
  • Twitter and Facebook feeds are all well and good, but are the agents on there actually empowered enough to do anything? Most of the time I see them asking the same questions, referring people to VM’s websites almost as if the responses are scripted.
  • Unaware of company SLA’s and service targets

All of this when a customer is probably already at their wit’s end because something hasn’t gone right or as expected.

I also asked the last agent about VM’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) to customers. He seemed to have no clue what I was asking. Surely isn’t this one of the things as a Customer Service Agent you should know? I can’t find it on the website. Or in a TOS anywhere. In fact I couldn’t even find a TOS on the website. Probably buried somewhere. With their customer service. What service level does VM agree to provide to its customers? Anyone?

Oh and two last little nuggets for VM trainers to think about training their CS staff with.

Empathy – putting yourself in the customers shoes. How would you feel?
Empowerment – being able (access, no limits) to do what needs to be done for the customer (with no barriers), without passing it to someone else to deal with. And actually dealing with it!

Another call. And finally, my heartfelt thanks to Rebecca (Scottish accent and Scottish accents in background, so I’m guessing Scottish call centre) who finally provided some decent customer service. She was empathetic. She checked everything. She determined the problem may be the router and she also brought forward an engineer visit for Wednesday 1st March. She has applied some credit to the account for the loss of service and she was empowered enough to put a small goodwill gesture on the account due to all the difficulties I have had this weekend. My hat is off to you Rebecca.

I still have no internet, but things are looking up for VM. 1 in 5 is better than some call centres. I hope you have better luck when you need to call them and get someone like Rebecca first time.

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