What is wrong with Virgin Media? a story of pain, frustration and dreadful Customer Experience


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If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will be aware that I am regularly referred to stories of both great and not so great Customer Experiences. As I am a big believer in the use of stories to bring Customer Experience to life, I feel that I am very fortunate to be allowed to share some of these stories with a wide audience.

This week I have been given permission to share a story of the ‘not so great’ variety. Over recent months, I have been increasingly made aware of customer dissatisfaction with Virgin Media. At least a dozen unconnected people have been only too eager to talk to me about their tales of woe with the company. In recent years, Virgin Media have actually been a Customer Experience ‘stalwart’ – I know a number of the team who developed one of the most robust Customer Experience programmes in the UK. Sadly they all departed soon after Virgin Media’s takeover by US based Liberty Global.

Until now, I have not felt compelled to write a blog post about the stories I have heard. This changed when I was directed to a story you will shortly read. The fact that the story is about a doctor is not really the point – this experience is being replicated with customers of all professions. However the story does highlight the frustration, anger and pain that Virgin Media is causing customers on a daily basis. What makes it even more annoying is the fact that the issues experienced in this story and others are all about the execution of the Customer Experience – not the quality of the product. I talk a lot about the move from being product centric to customer centric – if you want to know what being customer centric is all about, this story demonstrates what it is to NOT be customer centric…

Dear Virgin Media,
I am disappointed at your lack of common decency to your customers. I have taken the afternoon off work so that your engineer can unplug my current virgin box and plug in a new one. It is now 18:15 and no-one has turned up. I called customer service at 17:00 and they said they would look into it and call me back in 10 minutes, I haven’t received a call.
I partly blame myself for falling for your pressured upgrade calls but I just wanted you to stop calling as after no less than 10 calls I gave in. The caller who I eventually answered was very nice and offered me a special package as I had been with Virgin for 5 years and was a loyal customer paying over the odds. I hadn’t upgraded as I was happy with how things were. Anyway, I fell for the sale and accepted the ‘special offer’. Straight after ending the call I went online to your website to see that new members could get the same package but would pay £60 less – do you think I am a mug? I think that this is frankly disgusting and misleading behaviour! Anyway, after calling someone back and holding, I managed to get the package reduced to that of a new customer (aren’t I lucky!) and duly booked the time off work for the change of box.
I work hard as a GP seeing people who are sick every day. It is no small thing to take time off work, it costs me money, it costs the NHS money, but I had no option as you only offer 9-1 or 1-5. Anyway, I opted for the latter and missed seeing minimum 18 sick patients this afternoon. As it turns out, I could have seen them because your engineer has not turned up. Not only have I not received a call or an apology, I will most likely have to take more time off work at some point to try again, likely after I have spent money calling you to explain your error. I feel you not only owe me an apology but my patients an apology. I appreciate that things go wrong and people get delayed, but if I have patients who need to be seen, who are booked in, I don’t just clock off and not let them know!
I’m stuck really with what to do now, I like the fast service your broadband service offers but hate the way you treat your customers, it’s a catch-22 which I why I have tried to avoid communicating with you at all over the years and avoided upgrades. Anyway, writing this on Facebook has been cathartic and maybe others reading this and empathising with me make me feel a little better.
Just for info, if I ran a service where I told a customer they could see me at any time either in the morning or the afternoon but there was also a chance I was not going to see them, but I wouldn’t tell them that, then it would be all over the Daily Mail the following morning, just saying!

Every time I read the story I find myself shaking my head – I have never worked for Virgin Media but feel deeply embarrassed for them. There are so many customer journey failures in this story that it is difficult to know where to start summarising them – it is ‘Virgin on the ridiculous!’. Understanding how capable your business is of delivering the customer journey is absolutely imperative – that is if you are aware that you have a customer journey in the first place. Continuously improving your ability to deliver the customer journey should be the at the heart of any Customer Experience related activity.

I hope that senior leaders from Virgin Media and Liberty Global read this – the sustainability of their business (like all businesses) is dependant on being able to consistently meet (and sometimes exceed) customer expectation. Unless they systematically address complete Customer Experience failures like this one, I almost hope that they are not able to sustain themselves.

If you have experienced a problem with Virgin Media in recent months, please feel free to share your story by commenting on this post.

9 thoughts on “What is wrong with Virgin Media? a story of pain, frustration and dreadful Customer Experience

  1. I can relate to the story of your dissatisfied GP as I too have been beaten with the stick of poor customer experience by our friends at Virgin Media. For me this started as a simple call to understand the breakdown of my bill to allow me to ascertain whether I could get a better deal with the competition. I’ve been with Virgin perhaps 6years now and the product itself has always been ok aside from the fact that my bill kept creeping up year on year and the broadband kept dropping out from time to time. Anyway it turns out that on speaking to the customer services team they had been charging me for two boxes for >2yrs when I only have one. Sincere apologies from the team on the phone however when I asked for them to refund me the CX turned bad.

    Virgin Media:
    “sorry sir we can only refund 6 months, we are not authorised to refund anymore. You will have to write to head office”

    Me:
    “Really, you have just admitted that you guys have made a mistake, over charging me for >2yrs and it’s me that has to use up time, energy and a stamp to rectify?”

    Virgin Media:
    “Yes sir it’s our company policy”

    Me:
    “Ok can you put me through to Head Office please so I can speak them”

    Virgin Media:
    “No sir we can’t transfer you we don’t have the system to allow us to do that” (contracted call centre, totally disconnected from the mother-ship) ” you need to write a letter to HQ or call this number during office hours and you MIGHT get through to the HQ…. no sir there isn’t an email address…….no sir we can’t relay a message to call you back”

    Me:
    “Ok”. I put the phone down pretty unsatisfied.

    Next day I called at the end of a long day at work 1hr before the HQ number was supposed to close. After hanging on hold for about 20mins I was then told “sorry the call centre is too busy to receive your call please try again later……” Grrrr!

    So I decided to contact on Twitter, public space, and no surprise an instant reply! However that reply was an automated tweet asking me to go to a link and log a customer enquiry. Then it took 6 days for the team to get back to me with confirmation that the refund had been executed.

    This whole experience made me reflect on what is going on, the people I spoke to were polite and apologetic however it was the system, that let that down. Although there is clearly a CRM system at play there was no way of the staff highlighting/ref flagging a dissatisfied customer…..surely this is the easiest thing to fix? If you have motivated people that can actually speak to customers in an empathetic way, they are 70% of the way there. However, alas that final 25% lets the whole company down.

    Am I still with Virgin Media, yes, why, because they have a good product. It makes me really cross because I want to leave on principle but just like the doctor in your blog I want the product so I have no choice! That said when one of the other providers come to the fore with a decent new product proposition then if they have just an ounce of attention to their customers they will mop up Virgin customers in droves. Can’t wait for that day but until then I am hoping and praying that the product doesn’t stop working, the prospect of having to interact with the Virgin Media team again fills me with dread.

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  2. Hi Ian – having worked for Virgin I know that Richard Branson would be horrified by this. He is very amenable and available to emails so I would send this to him direct.

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  3. Thanks Ian – I’m sorry and not at all surprised to read this.

    Virgin Media, in my experience they are a great lesson in ‘how not to….’. In December 2013 they installed service to our house. Since then we’ve had several repeat visits to fix the dodgy broadband they installed, it still doesn’t work reliably. In the end I took Virgin to the adjudicator CISAS and Virgin simply made up stuff in order to wriggle out of taking any responsibility. If your readers can stand it – here’s the full story, including a poem I wrote whilst trying to retain a sense of humour about the whole thing.

    http://stopdoingdumbthingstocustomers.com/customer-experience/virgin-on-the-ridiculous/

    http://stopdoingdumbthingstocustomers.com/customer-service/an-open-letter-to-cisas-and-virgin-media/

    The engineers who visited tried hard to get a resolution – the customer service team and the CEO office were a waste of time. I couldn’t recommend this lot to anybody.

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  4. Thank you to everyone who has commented and shared their stories so far. Here is another one that was posted alongside my blog on Virgin Media’s Facebook page – it is not good reading either…

    I am too being mistreated by this sham of a company. I recently took out a 24 month contract for a Nokia Lumia 1320, after 3 or 4 months the handset started to malfunction and was returned to Virgin for repair. After a week or so the handset was returned to me with a letter saying the faults had been fixed. Well they had been but it also had a brand new fault, a fault preventing me to set the phone up correctly, I couldn’t access my emails, contacts, app store, anything requiring a Microsoft account. The phone was booked in for repair again, after another week it came back with a letter saying the phone could not be fixed and they sent a replacement, a second hand Lumia 1320 which had the exact problem on it. I called Virgin again but have had no help whatsoever, phone calls lasting 4 to 5 hours involving being past between 20 or so different people who all said the same thing, factory reset it and if that doesn’t fix it, I will have to send it back.
    Now, the reason this differs from the normal disgraceful treatment Virgin gives it’s customers is that I am not a well person, I have Multiple Sclerosis, I went for the 1320 because of it’s size, I need a large handset because of dexterity issues, I also need a smartphone capable of making emails easy to receive and read, this is because I need to be able to keep track of any communication from my Doctors, hospital, Chemist etc. Plus i need a phone I can use to easily access any of my contacts should I need them. For example, if I am alone and I fall or my health takes a downwards spiral, I need to be able to contact help/carer/family quickly and easily. The fault means I have no way of checking email, being able to download my contacts and a number of other functions of the phone. I find navigation systems to be extremely helpful as I can use them to make sure I know exactly where I am if I am out alone, they help me to locate safety quickly should I need it. During all this time I have missed information regarding my medication and appointments.

    Because my first handset went through every single method to fix it (a great member of staff stayed with me for 4 straight hours, working past his breaks and after he was meant to finish) I said there is no point as I know what will happen. Virgin said they can’t help if I’m refusing to do this, I had a very rude, inconsiderate and unhelpful person telling me this and I did lose my temper somewhat but I was scared, if I don’t have a smart phone then my life becomes severely restricted. Anyway, after a good 20 minutes of this guy I said I would do the reset and call back upon it’s completion. So the reset was done and I was proven right, the fault was still there, back I called, I got nowhere at all until I finally was put through to book it in for a repair. All of a sudden though they were telling me that they will not accept the phone because it’s a problem with a 3rd party Microsoft app and it is up to me to get in touch with Microsoft so they can fix it……..My temper was reaching epic proportions now, I demanded to be put through to the complaints team who again were of no help, they shrugged it off as nothing to do with them, even though they had taken back one handset and for many, many, many hours over two days had said I needed to return it to Virgin. I then wanted clarification that I would not not be charged for the three weeks I was unable to use the device (I had previously been told this by Virgin but I wanted to check again) only to be told that they had taken money from my account that very day…..Temper well and truly blown! They aren’t allowed to do this surely!? It was clear that they weren’t as quick as a flash they said it will be refunded to my account, covering their own backs I suppose.

    They are also now telling me that I have no case because the phone can send and receive calls and texts, well that’s as maybe, but I can’t access my contacts to use it as a phone, I can’t remember an entire phone book. Plus I bought a smartphone that does X Y and Z, this is now not a smartphone and only does X, I’m still paying for a smart phone however.

    Very early on in my communications I provided a resolution. As it is a handset that Virgin do not sell any longer and that they will be limited to sending out the small number of second hand 1320s as replacements (which still won’t work as it seems to be a problem throughout the 1320) then I suggest that Virgin switch me on to another contract. Virgin only now sell one handset that is the size that my knackered body can use at a price I can afford (just) and I suggested they move me to that one, bear in mind that my original contract is 4 or 5 months old and costs £15 p/m and this new one is £28 p/m. I have said from the get go that I’m not after something for nothing, I don’t want it discounted, I don’t want any recompense, I just want a phone that enables me to lead a semi-independent life. Virgin could easily have done this for me, a loyal customer who subscribes to their TV, Broadband and home phone services but instead of making a bit more money with a more expensive contract, they are about to lose my custom as I will cancel those services I’ve had for over a year, I can’t afford to buy out my mobile contract though so will be forced into taking out another contract somewhere whilst still paying for the one I’m not using.

    Thanks Virgin, thanks a bunch, this matter has had such a bad effect on my health already and the stress is risking me relapsing.

    You can follow the Facebook thread including Virgin Media’s responses here – https://www.facebook.com/virginmedia/posts/10152842984791796?comment_id=10152843343756796&reply_comment_id=10152843574976796&offset=0&total_comments=7&notif_t=share_comment

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  5. Interesting declaration of timely service coming from a doctor! My experiences of GP surgeries and hospitals would be pretty similar in terms of waiting and miscommunication. Granted doctors and nurses are trying to save peoples’ lives, whilst Virgin are trying to sell whatever they can, but would be conscious not to sit too high on that horse if I was part of the NHS.

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    • Hi Neil – thank you for taking the time to post a response to the post. The Doctor concerned was certainly not getting on a horse of any description in wanting to share the story. Whether about a Doctor or not, it is a demonstration of how concerning Virgin Media’s ability to deliver consistently good customer experiences is at the moment – as you can see from other responses, this is just one example of many.

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  6. Oh boy have I dodged a bullet – I think.

    I have tried to become a customer of Virgin Media in the last few week – seduced by slick adverts etc and always being a fan of Richard Branson and blissfully unaware that the business had been taken over by ‘Liberty Capital’.

    Anyway I have tried to be a customer, but over the course of 3 weeks Virgin Media have wasted so much of my time, money and energy, have failed to deliver anything useful and have cocked up everything, so much so that I have given up. And they have agreed to rip up the contract (although I wait to see if they still have the temerity to bill me).

    Looks like a lucky escape from the jaws of incompetence driven by indifference

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    • Many thanks for taking the time to share your experience. There are a lot of people who would agree with you – although I am not sure any of their competitors are much better right now!! If you do experience something better with someone else, I would love to hear about it!

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