Reasons to be unhappy with Virgin Media

I received a letter the other day from Virgin Media telling me about a few reasons to be cheerful as a Virgin Media customer.

In his introduction, Steve Stewart, managing director of customer care, says we could all do with a bit of cheering up after the ‘summer’ (his quotes) we’ve just had.

Stewart’s letter and accompanying brochure were all to do with Virgin Media’s big marketing push for its combined TV, broadband, phone and mobile offer.

And it is a pretty good offer – all those services for £40 a month.

As I currently spend £37 a month with Virgin Media for its cable broadband service, plus £11 with BT for the phone line, £35 with Vodafone for my mobile contract, and of course the television license at another £11 a month, Virgin Media’s reasons to be cheerful look highly compelling, although without closely examining the details of the offer

Yet my experience with Virgin Media over the past few days tells me loud and clear that this is a company not be be trusted beyond the marketing spin of its letters and brochures.

I can live with the fact that my internet connectivity disappeared last Friday afternoon.

I could live with the fact that I have no choice but to call Virgin Media’s technical support number that charges 25 pence per minute.

What other choice do I have? I’ve made four calls to that number so far which I estimate has cost me about £16.

And I could even live with the fact that the technical support people told me the earliest I would get my connection looked at by an engineer (and, presumably, be fixed by that engineer) is this Thursday October 25 between 8am and midday.

What I find deeply disappointing is unkept promises.

In each of my calls to Virgin Media, I’ve asked to speak to a supervisor. Each time, I’ve had the promise that someone would call me back, firstly within 30 minutes and then within 24 hours.

Over three days later and I’ve not heard a proactive word from anyone at Virgin Media.

Meanwhile, today I followed my Plan B to get online – first at my sister’s place where I can hop on to her wireless network (she also has Virgin Media broadband service, I should add), and then this evening at a BT Openzone wifi hotspot at the St Anne’s Manor hotel in Wokingham (they have great coffee, btw).

While there and online, I decided to buy a 5-day pass to BT Openzone at £27. A good deal which lets me get online any time in the coming 5 days at any BT Openzone hotspot, and there are quite a few in this area.

Back at my home office this evening as I started writing this post at 10.30pm ready for posting tomorrow when I’m next online at a hotspot, I happened to glance at the cable modem sitting on a shelf.

I’m now used to the baleful blinking of the sync light indicating a fault in the network connection. But the light was on! And the ‘ready’ light was now lit again!

Sure enough, I have my net connectivity back!

After testing just to be sure, my first thought was: What a bunch of idiots at Virgin Media.

Every time I’ve called tech support, they’ve done whatever magic they do to remotely test your connection and your modem. Each time, it’s been ‘an engineer will need to come.’ Yet all of a sudden, my net connectivity is back.

My second thought was: You’ve made a fool of me, Virgin Media.

Both my wife and I have run around all day today trying to get connected. It’s been a serious inconvenience. I’ve coughed up extra money to be sure I can stay connected in the coming days.

Now I have my own connection back again, earlier than expected. (But for how long, I wonder? I have little confidence in Virgin Media.)

All this brings to my mind in sharp relief the Social Customer Manifesto as created by Christopher Carfi in 2004:

Other than the second bullet on the left, which other attributes should I apply to Virgin Media?

I’m glancing again at the letter from Virgin Media’s Steve Stewart. Remember, he’s the managing director of customer care.

His penultimate paragraph says:

We’re not pretending everything’s hunky dory, because we know we’ve still got a long way to go. But we’re going to keep trying to make things better.

Hah! What do you say, Mr Stewart? How far are you prepared to go?

Or are you and your company purely a spectator?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Terinea Weblog

    Nev, Nev, I feel the pain too, for I am having constant issues with Virgin broadband.

    Since the installation of Virgin at my flat (not by choice may I add) it has always been very slow.

    But for the last two weeks it has been losing connection for 12 minutes, reconnect for about other 12 minutes and then drop off again.

    After ringing technical support, I was informed that they been having this issue for two weeks now and they are not sure when it would be fixed.

    Which more than likely means the local area is over loaded and they can’t afford to upgrade.

    Hence I’m considering moving Zen Internet or PlusNet both of which I highly recommend.

    It would of been nice of Virgin Media, to let me know they where having issues, most people would probably think that their PC was at fault.

  2. neville

    I don’t have any real issues with Virgin Media’s broadband service itself. It’s consistently good if not excellent, in my experience.

    It’s when things go wrong that you see the ugly face of this company.

    Your customer service experience looks to be about par for the course, I’d say.

  3. Jed

    I was thinking of moving provider from BT/Demon Internet to a bundled service too. Your experience has really put me off looking at Virgin seriously.

    We had lots of problems with TeleWest in the past like this, broken promise after promise, never made a proactive call or rang back when promised. Just cancel the contract and claim in the small courts!

  4. neville

    Jed, my only experience of Virgin Media is their broadband service, which I’ve been quite happy with. Obviously I don’t say the same about their customer service.

    I’m considering what to do, ie, continue or cancel. Much depends on whether I do hear from anyone at this company re my experience over the past few days.

  5. Mike

    If you think being with Virgin Media is bad, then just try getting away from them. I have been receiving threatening letters from them for the last six months because I had the temerity to cancel my contract. Apparently they want to take me to court for non-payment and are going to blacken my credit rating.

    The thing is, though, I also have a letter from them confirming the cancellation and giving me a termination date. But in typical NTL/Virgin style they are too incompetent for the disconnections people to communicate with the accounts dept., so the letters just keep coming and coming.

    No amount of writing to them – even recorded delivery – will ever get a reply. I’ve called dozens of times, and they always agree that it’s a mistake and promise to fix it. Yet a couple of weeks later the next letter arrives.

    Truly, the worst company I have ever had to deal with.

  6. Alastair McKenzie

    I well remember the sinking feeling I had when I received a chirpy letter from ‘the bearded one’ (who I’ve met professionally a couple of times and quite like) telling me how lucky I was going to be as a Virgin Media customer.

    I was really quite happy with Telewest supplying my cable tv and Blueyonder broadband. It all pretty much worked.

    By binary logic ANY change stood a good chance of messing that up….especially since the bearded one was bringing all his existing phone customers to the party.

    So far – reaches for large piece of wood – nothing has stopped working. But I dread the day when it does.

  7. Pete Buchanan

    Hello there Neville
    I have experienced nothing but lamentably slow broadband from Virgin. I was in a cabled area in Colchester and moved to its outskirts. I am at the mercy of the dreaded telephone line.

    “Just plug in and Surf” was the jingle on the box of goodies that arrived. 46 minutes and many £’s later Virgin’s “technical Team” got me kind of up and running st 2 speeds, reverse and stop.
    Because of the atrocious speed.. all BT’s fault of course, Virgin decided I needed to be downgraded to a package that costs £14.99 p.m.

    I received notification that Virgin would be removing 170.09p from my bank account, £156.50 because THEY had changed my package with them.

    I extracted a promise that this would not happen and was told not to worry because the error was an accounting one and guess what? It happened and I am now the proud owner of an overdraft. I am a pensioner and although money is always tight I have NEVER been in the red with my bank!

    Virgin reacted to my story as if I had just told them my pet budgie had escaped. I shall have to wait for 5 days for them to send a cheque……my direct debit of course is removed at the speed of light.

    My utter disgust and anger at being treated in this fashion is of course unrivaled.

    I have written letters to their customer care and don’t hold out much hope of being re imbursed for the damage they have caused me credit rating wise…..I currently have a 92 credit rating score with my bank. Not for much longer I daresay.

    I shall let you know the next chapter of my saga when it happens
    With kind regards
    Pete Buchanan

  8. neville

    That’s quite a story, Pete. I keep hearing about people’s different experiences with Virgin Media service itself, ie, the broadband. Some good, some not so good, some bad. All different.

    Yet the consistent story I hear everywhere is this company’s truly awful customer service, such as you’ve experienced.

    Here’s hoping you get a solution.

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