Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dear Mr Branson... about that poor broadband service

I've written to Richard Branson at to point out I'm less than enamoured with the poor service I've been getting from Virgin Media.

Dear Mr Branson,

Your Virgin Media broadband service which I subscribe to at home has been variable for several weeks.  The past three days it has become virtually unusable with download speeds alone slipping below 0.1Mbps. Typically it might run at about 1Mbps if we’re lucky though it did at one point reach 2 Mbps after 9pm last night.

This is disrupting my family’s work, education, social activities and access to public and commercial services.

Your “check service status” facility on the web – which I can only now check easily from my computer at work –

laughably says there is “Good service” in my area.

Your “check service status” phone line “confirms” that Virgin Media believe/assert “there are no problems” in my area.

When there are problems it is really irritating for customers when Virgin Media declare/think/pretend there are none.

The do-it-yourself (DIY) ‘check and fix your own problems’ approach on the Virgin Media website assumes customers have nothing better to do than follow a series of instructions which rarely fix anything and generates significant angst.

Your various “helplines” – which request a customer “press 1 for…” queuing,  canned music and repeated “your custom is really important to us”, “our lines are currently very busy and you may have to wait up to 25 minutes to speak to an operator” message privileges, then eventually at the end of a long wait connect to a stressed member of call centre staff in Asia who can’t help, is working to an instruction sheet not related to my problem and is occasionally just plain rude – are not conducive to already fragile customer relations.

As an academic in the area I know a little about computers – not a lot but a little – and one of my least favourite activities frankly, when I get home from work, is going through a series of convoluted, difficult to access (via your website or phone helplines) routine processes I know to be futile, in an effort to demonstrate to one of your difficult to access call centre folks that I’ve already tried the stuff on their crib sheet without success.

As to the website can I request that you yourself try the “Contact us” area of your website:

Click on that “Fault with your service” button.

Do you know if you have ‘cable’, ‘national’ or other options services?

Try ‘cable’ for the sake of argument.

Oh look it’s got that “check your service status” in your area button.  Ignore that – I can tell you it gives a false answer.

Instead “Select an option or search to see our top answers.”

Try “Cable broadband/wireless”.

Here we go there are “4 possible results to your query found”, in red font so this intrepid website miner can find them.

Click on “Why is my connection slower than usual?”

Great, an article on why my connection might be slower than usual with lots of DIY instructions, links to yet more articles and lists of instructions about rebooting my modem and optimising my computer or browser and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.  It even gives me the option at the end of every page of clicking a button
Was this information useful? Yes No

Guess what? 

The answer is no.

I know you’re a busy man and so am I, so can I just, as our US friends like to say, cut to the chase?

When there is a problem with my broadband service – it’s slow and/or down – I want Virgin Media to know about it and let me know about it in an accessible communiqué whilst assuring me they are working hard to fix it asap. 

Then I want them to work hard to fix it asap and deliver the service I’m paying for.

If Virgin Media are traffic managing my service I want them to let me know about it immediately and why.  I don’t want to go Virgin Media website mining or trying to interpret tables or articles or links or messages or help forums or other places I might get directed to.  We don’t use “Napster, Kazaa, iMesh, eMule and so on” so should not be subject to traffic management. But if your people think we do I want to know about it.

Pretending there is no problem and then acting as though, if there is, it is all my fault doesn’t sit well with my perception of your preference for the delivery excellent customer service.

I’ve been flooded with letters from BT for months, encouraging me to switch to BT infinity.  Recent experience with Virgin Media (and I haven’t even mentioned the heavy static on the phone line because that’s another long story) is pushing me in their direction.

If you have, thanks for taking the time to read to this to the end.

Yours sincerely,

Ray Corrigan
I got a canned response:

Many thanks for your mail to my airline office.

As much as I'd like to respond to everyone personally, it's not always possible.  If you're giving me some feedback about a recent Virgin Atlantic flight I'll make sure it gets to the right people.

If you are letting me know about one of my other companies, I'm always pleased to receive the feedback. However to avoid any delay in getting back to you can you please check for a list of the other Virgin Group companies and get in touch through the 'Contact Us' section of their websites.

Best regards
The "Contact Us" section of your websites is one of the fundamental problems but I have now heard from the 'Ceo team'.  So we'll see if that leads to a solution.

Update: I've now heard from a Virgin CEO complaints manager and a specialist agent.  The agent, Dave, who was very helpful and professional, has remotely diagnosed the problem as my troublesome old Virgin modem and is sending someone out to install a new one next Monday. I also agreed to sign up for a 60M service for £6.70 less per month than the current 10M service. Hopefully that will cure the problem as well as providing a better (faster/seamless) broadband service (and not create any other problems). It means committing to Virgin for another 12 months but that's ok as long as the service is good. Thanks to the individuals at Virgin who have been so helpful so far.  It beats playing telephone tag and website miner for days on end without respite.

1 comment:

Wayne Skelton-Hough said...

Hi Ray,

I had a wry smile reading this one...

As you know, I am no fan of Virgin Media, having experienced their brand of Customer Support when they were still known an ntl.

My last dealings with Virgin Media happened when one of their engineers cut through our satellite cable and connected the TV end of it to their box whilst installing next door's broadband and TV service. I am assuming that this fault would have been detected quite quickly (i.e. when he went to stitch on the TV and got no signal) but the engineer made no effort to fix his handiwork.

When I rang their call centre to try and resolve the situation I was connected to the usual Asian call centre where it very quickly became evident that my particular problem did not appear on their crib sheet. My not being a Virgin Media customer but still having a problem with them appeared to be the concept they could not deal with and so they used a variety of techniques to get me off the line.

Obviously getting me to go away (even if I rang straight back again) ensured that their statistics weren't affected by this troublesome non-customer and meant that I was now someone else's problem! Unfortunately the nature of call centre working I fear!

After about 45 minutes on the phone I eventually managed to get a number to call here in the UK where someone did actually look after me and get a senior engineer out to look at what had happened. Unfortunately the call centre in the UK had closed 10 mins before I called it, despite being assured that it was still open by the Asian call centre staff, so the engineers visit had to wait until the next morning, leaving me without TV for a night!

The engineer came out within 2 hours of raising the problem with the UK call centre ( the following day) and his opening comment was "Whet the F**f has he done here?" He fixed the problem within 10 mins and I was happy to have my TV back.

I then set about complaining to Virgin Media about the situation and the truly appalling level of customer service doled out by their Indian call centre. Initial letters were simply dismissed as not their fault and so I escalated it up the tree to the Virgin Media directorate and yes, Richard Branson himself.

As far as Richard goes, I got the same stock reply and heard nothing more about it (I suspect he now thinks he’s too big to be troubled by bothersome customers).

I did hear from the Virgin Media executive office however. Initially the lady I spoke to was quite sympathetic and I was offered £10 compensation for my troubles. Unfortunately, when I pointed out that £10 barely covered the cost incurred spending 45 minutes on the phone to their customer service centre (I was calling from a mobile phone) she got quite aggressive even going so far as to suggest that perhaps the damage had actually been caused by me in the first place!

Eventually she reluctantly upped the compensation to £20 and I accepted, vowing NEVER to become a Virgin Media customer as long as I have a breath left in my body!