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?