@virginmedia broadband customer services woes

Virgin Media Broadband Customer Services Sucks

Update:I wanted to add that eventually my problem was resolved. FWIW I think VM do have people who are genuinely dedicated to delivering a quality product and that there are amongst their number some very good CS people. My personal thanks go out to Sam T  for her professionalism and successful resolution of my issue

So, I’ve been a Virgin Media customer for longer than I can remember ( > 10 years). I’ve just got off the phone with Michaela at customer retention who despite having heard every detail of my complaint, was unable to talk to a colleague within the company and explain things on my behalf. She advised that I should spend a little more of my precious time writing to them, so that they could make me wait a little longer and inconvenience me a little more.

I’m naturally averse to doing that, as like you and many others out there, if there’s one thing that narks me more than most, it’s corporate bullshit. Especially corporate bullshit that’s designed to wear people down and systematically pick people off through sapping their will.

My VirginMedia Broadband Slows down of an Evening

Recently I’ve been having broadband issues with a service that I pay something like £25 per month for. Up to 20 meg broadband as I believe it’s called.

The ‘Up To’ words are quite important of course, as I doubt anybody using  their 20meg services ever gets that. It’s a theoretical figure that assumes that all being perfect, you could get in theory.

I digress. If I’m honest, I’ve had issues with their services for months. Sometimes of an evening, it’s just rubbish, it slows down to the point of unusability. I’m told that this is due to throttling. Other times I’ve been told that it’s due to a cap, in that if I download x data during the day, my ability to download data during the evening will be curtailed.

Hmmn, well I’m not one of these people who download films, or music or any of that other high bandwidth intensity stuff.  I just do the whole twitter, FB and surf thing. Most of the time I’m answering customer emails or ftp’ing the umpteenth tweak to a script I’ve hacked, or reading up on quora or stackoverflow or some other obscure techie thing that weirdos like me like to play with.

On ‘fast’ days I used Speedtest.net to gauge download and upload speed. I can’t remember what speed exactly but on such days it was around 14MBPS. TBH, I was happy with that. It was fast enough for me and didn’t leave me sitting there thinking ‘Where’s my 20mbps!!”

Over the past 5 days or so I’ve had very poor service. So poor that it’s been unusable. From 6pm it’s not even worth me trying to get online, it’s akin to the old days of 14kb modem dial up only worse. As I touched upon earlier, I’ve had times like this before, which I’ve grinned and borne which have usually sorted themselves out. Not ideal, but not really worth the short term pain of speaking to someone in India, who usually antagonise me with tech BS platitudes at best or at worst insists that I restart my modem or router to restart services.

Apparently, my Virginmedia Broadband is suffering from low SNR

The other day, having had an FTP upload ceased midflow, the proverbial straw had broke my back and  I decided that it was time to give the guys at Virginmedia a call. I explained to Ganesh that the service was not working and blah blah blahed about how it usually sorted itself out and that I’d already did the restart router/modem things and…well, Ganesh bless him, was no doubt duty bound to ask me to do it all again and after a time the answer back was that I was the recipient of an SNR issue in the area.

SNR – hmmn I thought, Signal to Noise Ratio, Subscription Network’s Rank, or Subscription Not Really worth a carrot perhaps!?

See on other times, I’ve been told other stuff.

Faulty modem, faulty router, attenuator adjustments required for signal boosting, server failure, cable failures, network faults…the list could be endless.

SNR is a new one though, so awesome, excuse number I couldn’t really care what number it is.

If I’m honest, I couldn’t really care less what the reason is either.

I pay for a service and expect to get it. I demand continued service at a level that I’ve paid money for. Whether Virgin Media care or not I do actually spend in excess of £900 per year with them. Yep, £900 to pump a few signals down a cable which includes a nice £1.50 per month for my paper bill troubles.

I’m told that my current woes will be fixed by June the 2nd. The SNR is specific to my area will be resolved and all will be well.

VirginMedia have nationwide network issues

In these days of web democracy one can quickly find out if one is alone in ones experiences.

A quick search on Google shows that people in many parts of the UK are having issues with the Virginmedia service. http://www.google.co.uk/#sclient=psy&hl=en&source=hp&q=virgin+unusable+of+an+evening shows a good smattering of results bemusingly from the virginmedia community pages themselves (well done Virgin, trying to own your online rep)

A look at some of those threads reveals all manner of things relative to exchange capability, the changing nature of users (Gamers, Video, Audio etc), SNR and  Over subscription (probably the most grating, why take on new customers for a service that isn’t delivering to existing customers).

Why I think Virgin media Customer services are poor

In the world view that I inhabit, customers who pay people money to do things for them have some basic rights. Besides all the legal obligations and various duties of care, people like me believe that where a customer is inconvenienced above a certain threshold then at the very least, the company that has caused them problems should at least try to recognise that and recompense them for their troubles. To put customers through various loopholes and give them the run around is to be frank, complete and utter crap.  If a customer isn’t very happy and explains the reasons why, calmly and dispassionately the correct response is to do your utmost to find a way to help. It’ll help if I explain the sequence of events, otherwise I just sound like some rantsmith with an axe to grind.

I won’t include the previous two days of calls to Ganesh and co, as  I’m sure you’ve better things to do, but here’s how it played today.

I called VirginMedia and eventually got through to someone in…India – I explained the situation (again) and was told that technical services might be able to help. I explained that actually, no, they wouldn’t be able to as I wanted to complain about the service and not seek the same responses to answers I’d already heard. Alas, he was insistent and I dutifully waited and explained to technical support that I already knew what was wrong and just wanted to talk to customer services, they argued their corner and eventually patched me though to customer services who listened and made the right kid of noises, until that is they mentioned that I’d get a pro rata refund only.

Pro rata refund only – I typed that again because as I type it, it releases a little more adrenalin and fires me up a little bit further. So, for my 5 days (and numerous other periods of disconnectedness) I’m to receive a pro rata sum. £25 / 31 * 5 = £4.03.

I should add that yesterday I went out and bought a mobile dongle from O2. Long story short is I’ve spent £30 because I need to have services indoors due to the fact that my service provider wasn’t providing me with a service.

I explained this to the nice lady at Virginmedia and explained that I was less than satisfied with what she was offering and that in my view, the offer wasn’t that good. I’d already laid out £30 of my own money, not to mention the time spent on phones trying to resolve it or the hassle of being unable to do what I needed to do on the various evenings I’d had no service. Her hands were tied, she was sympathetic but unable to provide more than a certain level of recompense, she could pass me to customer retention who might be able to help (at this point I’d expressed a view of exasperation an was on the verge of cancelling contracts).

After some time waiting about for the next available operative – Cue Michaela at customer retention – There was no record of what I’d said previously, the nice colleague at customer services hadn’t explained my situation, so I then had to explain it all again and convey the irritation I felt at having paid money etc blah blah blah and that I was now seeking reasons why I should even continue to be a customer and pay them the £900 per year that they currently get hoping that the reasonable response would be something along the lines of “Mr Watts, very sorry to hear about all this, we don’t want to lose you and appreciate the royal pain in the arse that this must be so in recognition we’ll give you at the minimum a sum equal to your reasonable loss that we hope compensates you…we do value your business etc etc” Reasonable huh? But no, Michaela bless her cotton socks, despite being cognisant of every nuance of the situation, tells me that I should WRITE to customer services and complain!.

Me: Um, I’m doing that now, verbally, to you at customer retention. Can’t you do this for me? Can you not convey my concerns to the relevant people who can help me, and take a decision and deal with my concerns? I’ve already invested a considerable amount of my time trying to resolve this.

Her: No Mr Watts, I’m in customer retention, the procedure is that you complain to customer services by letter and an appropriate person will deal with it.

Me: I really don’t understand why despite listening to all I’ve said,  that you expect me to waste even more of my time trying to resolve this! This call is recorded right? Can’t you just forward the audiofile so they can listen?

Her: More petty obfuscating nonsense determined not to help or resolve

Me: Ok, thanks.

I’m not astounded by all of this, I’m simply flabbergasted that a system designed to help customers who have issues could be used in a way to frustrate and aggravate. Changing services to another supplier is fraught with all manner of headaches. Unknown quantities, time out to e there when they turn up being but two that spring to mind.

I’ve thought about writing to Virgin media customer services, I’ve thought about writing to Neil Berkett or Richard Branson, or OFCOM  even but…really, to continue with this merry go round of nonsense serves little purpose other than to waste even more of my time. Customer service shouldn’t be a revolving door of buck passing and annoyance. It should deal with customer issues and get the problem resolved. Customers don’t want to know about policies designed to restrict company loss, they want to be treated fairly and efficiently with no nonsense. There are of course exceptions. Rude people, chancers, conmen and liars should be given short shrift, but I like to think that I’m neither of the above.

Naturally, I’m a little pissed by all this - It’s a lovely day out and I could have been out in the sunshine or reading a book or doing some work but…

Consumers have few tools these days, the most effective are those that get eyeballs and get brands to sit up and take note.If you want to help me, or maybe make others aware of the kind of things they can expect from Virginmedia when things don’t quite work or go wrong, then you could share this post on Twitter or Facebook or wherever else it is you hang out online.  Maybe someone else will get some insight in to what they can expect.

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11 thoughts on “@virginmedia broadband customer services woes

  1. Alex Brown

    Hi Rob

    Apologies for this. It doesn’t read well and I don’t want us to be seen as failing you – will you give us an opportunity to dig into this further and sort out whatever’s wrong for you?

    The posting address I’m using for this blog post is valid – can you drop us an e-mail with some account details and we’ll get on the case as a matter of priority?

    Oh and SNR does stand for Signal to Noise Ratio, and the symptoms you describe (periods of connectivity issues) would suggest that this could potentially be a SNR problem.

    Hope this helps and sorry again.

    Alex
    Head of Customer Experience
    Virgin Media

        1. mrgrumpy

          My problems with virgin broadband are entirely the response from customer service. Leanne in accounts had such a broad scottish accent that I honestly had to strain the understand her (she could not pass me onto another customer service person as she said they all had broad accents. I went through the automated service allocation system that took me in a complete circle. Quite happy to give you full details, but I received my MAC number, today, within a couple of hours and have applied to plusnet for my replacement service. I too, am really disgusted after paying virgin for over ten years for broadband, three years for mobile and also paying for my dughter phone,broadband and TV. Wonder what it costs to obtain a new customer ?
          mrgrumpy is my new, as of today, user name. Shame

  2. Geoff

    Wow. You got a response from the head of customer experience in 53 minutes…. congrats.

    Seriously, you’ve made some great points about how customer service channels appear to be set up – to frustrate.

    I am sure Alex (and others) set out with the intention of directing us to the “experts” who can deal with the problem – the “experts” who know which script to work from.

    The issue is often the inability to know when to raise the issue to their line manager. With Virgin Media I’ve learnt never to phone outside of office hours – staff after hours just want to pass you from pillar to post and do not appear to feel they are accountable for their actions.

    1. robwatts Post author

      Hi Geoff, thanks for the comment, just fished this out of the spam box :( Akismet…

      I think it’s unfortunate that someone somewhere didn’t do their sums properly and from my limited understanding of human nature it would seem that perhaps I’ve simply encountered the sharper end of the demotivated stick, where people at the sharp end in CS are having to deal with the flak. It can’t be fun doing their job and right now from what I’ve read across the web, the level of complaints are pretty elevated.

      A look at Twitter shows that negative sentiment is rife and that for the people who can get online (smart phone suers etc) the levels of criticism are verging on the vitriolic! I’m sure that those who can’t are virtually incandescent, especially if they rely upon it for day to day social and business activities.

      The problem with service failures of this kind is that generally people tend to have a flip flop view when it comes to down and uptime. When things are down people rightly get massively frustrated and shout and holler, and if they can’t get online to do so, then their voice is mute. When they get their connections back and think about it a little further they probably think, ack what the hell, it’s working now I can’t be arsed to sit on a phone for an hour and speak to someone about a problem that no longer exists. That, or they get told that it was a transient issue and their pro rata refund will be on their next bill. Which is a shame as no one really gets a real handle on the level of the problem so no great attention is paid to it.

      My biggest beef around all of this is the general attitude of the customer retention person, she poured gas on the fire and failed to communicate with a customer who was rightly dissatisfied. The lack of the 1st line’s CS persons ability to deal with me adequately is also an issue, which I’m sure both customers and CS alike are all too aware.

      Anyways, I’ve actually heard good things from peers regarding the VM twitter team, so fingers crossed.

      Rob, typing from my 02 dongle conn, yay for 02 dongle back up conns :D

  3. John Wallace

    My VM modem has been unready (sync’d but ready light just flashing, and intermittently, apparently rebooting itself) for over 2 days now. Have wasted so much time in the past fighting through VM’s customer service that I no longer bother. Fortunately, I also have a Talk Talk ADSL wireless router and a Vigor 2910 router which is wired with the VM signal as primary, and the TT signal as secondary, so the TT line takes over the load automatically (at best). Today, two friends, one from along the road and one that lives 2 miles away reported similar problems, and asked for my help. The one 2 miles away had unfortunately wasted time calling VM, and on their instructions, powered down all her VM equipment, and started it up again. She uses a wireless modem router, and it appears this has reset her WPA password as her PC is now asking her to enter it before it will connect. Unfortunately she not only does not know it, she does not even know what WPA is, and that it uses an enceyption key (presumably because someone else set it up on her laptop computer). As she does not have a patch cable, she cannot wire her laptop directly to the router to set the key to something she can remember (even if VM have not now set up their routers so that this can only be done from the WAN end). To be fair to VM, this is only about the second long interruption this year, but I would not like to depend on them alone, and hooray, it has come online again this evening without my wasting any time on them. A number of my friends who work in IT from home say they wouldn’t dream of using VM – they have no SLA (hearsay, I know, perhaps VM will contradict this). My advice to friends who want secure connection is buy a 3 MiFi pay-as-you-go adapter, and when VM fails, charge it up and use it. Seems this is almost exactly what you did, Rob.

    1. robwatts Post author

      Hi John

      Sorry to hear about your Virgin Media woes John, I really feel for your friend too as for many people of a non tech bent these things can be voodoo! – As I’ve said previously, the main bug bear with my experience was the customer service issue and the general cluelessness and unhelpfulness from some I encountered. The service failure is of course the reason I’d needed to contact them in the 1st place and it would be nice if it didn’t go down as often as it has recently.

      You make an important part re: continuity of service, some people (like me) do rely on having web access 24/7. It’s become almost like a utility. The absence of which is very inconvenient.

      Speaking as I find, the on-line VM team have been very professional thus far and have apologised for the experience I’ve had. This is in stark contrast to the service I received from their phone operatives who tbh, could learn a lot from them based both on tone and willingness to find a solution. If you have any subsequent issues I’d suggest trying the VM twitter team. They seem to have a better handle on it all and understand the importance of good online comms.

  4. Alan Mitchell

    Hi Rob,

    Sounds a lot like my experience with Telstra Bigpond here in Australia. Took me 5 weeks, 3 failed engineer callouts, and over 20 hours on the phone to get my internet connected. Then they charged me twice, disconnected me for not paying for two connections, and took 3 weeks to reconnect again.

    I just decided to go with another provider, and refused to pay the last few bills. They couldn’t be bothered to argue. Seems to be the only way consumers can get one over the big telecom giants.

    Alan

    1. robwatts Post author

      Hi Alan

      Good to hear that it’s not just a phenomena of northern hemisphere :D

      I once did similar with BT back in the days of old media – they took me to court and I was forced to pay the 30 quid plus costs! Guess who they’ll never have as a customer again ever ever!? :D

      Sometimes, that’s all you can do in the end – vote with your feet. That said, I do like the voice that the net gives us. Brands are becomingly increasingly aware of the value and power of online networks. The smarter ones are taking the bull by the horns and are genuinely engaging with dissatisfied punters in meaningful ways recognising that an unhappy customer is a vocal one.

      I hope things are good out there :)

  5. Daniel

    So all we need to do is have an influential blog and write a few pages dissing virgin media and we’ll get individual service… easy…

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