by Iain on February 12, 2007
Above you can see the promise made by Virgin Media on their website. Below you can read about my experience and how it differs from the above. I know Virgin Media is new, and I know it’s bound to have teething problems. But there’s only so far that excuse can stretch…
One of the things I really didn’t want to do with this blog was turn it into my own personal soap box for airing vendettas about bad experiences. But I’m going to have to make an exception this time.
However, I am going to keep my bitching ‘off the front page’. If you want to read more about why Virgin Media have really shot themselves in the foot with claims regarding any level of customer service you’ll have to click to read more…
After last week’s bad experience I still went through and got Virgin Media set up on Saturday. The two guys that came round and fitted it were great. Helpful, knowledgeable, polite, etc.
They left. The TV worked. The phone worked. But I needed to set up broadband myself. Which is fine. I’ve done that kind of thing a few times before. Or so I thought…
Logged on to the registration page, it asked for a serial number. I don’t have a serial number…
Call number 1 to support. Outsourced call centre. Lots of waiting. After 10 minutes: “Sorry sir, you’ll have to call back on Monday, I can’t get you a number”. At this point I’m a bit cross.
Monday afternoon: call number 2 to support. Outsourced call centre. Lots of waiting. “I can’t help you with that. I’ll put you through to customer support”. Line goes dead. So I have to call back.
Call number 3 to support. Same number as before. Outsourced call centre. Lots of waiting. This person can apparently sort me out with a number. Seems a bit odd that her colleague couldn’t, oh well…
After 2 minutes: “Sorry sir can you call back in 2 hours that machine isn’t working”. So I ask “are you sure it’ll be working in 2 hours? And are you sure you can sort out a number, two of your colleagues haven’t been able to”. She says: “Oh yes sir, just call back in 2 hours”.
Not believing this story for a second, I suspiciously try another number (call number 4). This time I get through to a UK call centre. It’s a bit quicker and the conversation (and telephone line) are a bit clearer. I quite like the chirpy Scottish chap, he’s almost polite. He tells me to stay on the line, I’m being transferred through to Sales, who can sort me out with my numbers. Or rather I’m dumped at the back of a massive huge long queue in order that one day I might be able to tell my story again to some other gimp in sales. So I spend 15 minutes in the queue. At this point the hold music merely offends me.
It’s at this point when I wonder if they really do ever record calls for training purposes. And even if they do they’d never manage to join up all of my bloody calls into one long documentary of grief. So I start to wonder about using Skype to make all of my customer service calls, and recording them for myself. So I can share my shitty experiences with the world in full 20-minutes-of-banal-ear-fucking-melodo-loop-glory. (Thinking about this helps to pass the time).
Person 5 (not strictly a separate call, but I’ve given them a new number because they’re a new person). Again a UK call centre. Turns out I’ve been put through to the wrong department. Apparently I need the home movers centre. Of course. Obviously really. Being slightly skeptical about this, and starting to feel like I’m being given the runaround, I query this call of action. But I’m assured that these are definitely the people who can deal with my call. Oddly I find myself at the back of another queue. At this point the hold music (or rather 15 second loop of happy jolly evil evil as it should be more accurately described) is starting to affect me.
After 10 minutes in the queue I reach person number 6 – guess what! It’s the wrong person! She’s in the disconnections centre! I’m tempted to say “yes I’ve come through to the exactly the right place, I’d like to be disconnected please, right now. No, don’t ask me any more questions. I told you, shut it. Just do it. Disconnect me now!”, but the other half of me is thinking “I’ve come too far, I’ve got to be nearing the end of my quest, the land of broadband and all it’s milky honeylike goodness awaits”. Anyway she says she’s very sorry. But then she goes and sticks me in another queue, just like all the others.
I hadn’t noticed the words in the hold music up until this point. I can’t quite make out what they’re saying, but its stuff about burning, pulling hair, killing, drilling teeth, that kind of thing. Quite an odd choice of lyrics given the cheery nature of the melody…
Finally I get through to someone who can help. I shall call her person 7.
But i have to register all over again. And set up a direct debit to pay for broadband separately. This sounds really really odd, as I’ve got a ’3 for Ã‚Â£30 package’, why on earth would broadband be paid for separately? Oh it’s to do with systems I’m told. I’m an understanding kind of guy, and you know what, sorting out tricky stuff like that definitely should absolutely take second place to Richard’s party with his celeb friends in the box in Covent Garden. And you know what, when I see Uma on the telly, I sort of forget the fact that Virgin Media just doesn’t work as an integrated offering. Her calming reassuring banter make me believe that it does.
So for my 3 for Â£30 deal I’m now agreeing to pay Â£20 for TV and phone and Â£10 for broadband. Both payments made to Virgin Media. Both from my same bank account. But they’re 2 separate direct debits. Now that’s what I call triple play integration! I can only imagine what would happen if I’d added mobile in there too ;-) But hey, it is strictly 3 for 30, so I can’t really complain can I.
Almost there, but she says she’s going to have to put me back on hold. By now I’d rather be locked in a cell with water dripping onto my forehead. MAKE THE MUSIC STOP! I’LL TELL YOU EVERYTHING. MY PARENTS ARE BOTH COMMUNISTS. WE’VE BEEN PLOTTING TO BLOW UP EVERYTHING. JUST MAKE IT STOP. PLEASE.
It stops. She’s back.
But guess what. It’s not over! She’s having a few problems with her system. But at least I don’t have to call her back in 2 hours, this time she’s going to call me in 30 minutes (or so), with the information I need. As you can imagine I was pretty excited by the thought! All I have to do is sit back and wait. All my problems will be solved.
Anyway 2 hours later and no call back. Fearing that everyone is about to go home for the day. I decided that maybe I should call Virgin Media back. The only thing stopping me was the twitch behind my left eyeball. A deep twitch deep in the tissue. Something connected to what I was about to do. A Pavlovian response to the thought of more hold music I guess. I dial 150. The cocky Lisa I’Anson soundalike bitch is chirping in my ear, for the whateverth time today. I want to kill her. But I know if I do I’ll never get to broadband nirvana.
Just 12 minutes on hold this time (made bearable by reciting the 27 times table aloud to drown out the bastard hold music) and I get through to someone. I shall call him number 8. I asked if I could please have my serial number and PIN. The guy on the phone gave them to me!!! I was a nanosecond away from urinating freely in my underpants, thankfullly I managed to clench before the excitement overwhelmed me.
I checked with him that these 2 precious numbers were all I could possibly need to register my account. Absolutely he assured me. Twice. For a brief moment I understood. I understood what it feels like to love another man. I didn’t tell him. I just felt it in my heart.
At this point I could practically smell broadband goodness squirting into my house.
Like a junkie with a freshly scored bag of brown rushing to his dirty bloody crusty spoon, I ran with my numbers to my lonely, sad, disconnected laptop. Bingo! The 8 digit number the guy gave me didn’t correspond with the 11 digit number I was asked for. At that point I swore. Just a little. Quietly and serenely to myself.
So back to the phone. This time singing heavy metal tracks backwards to drown out the noise (well I only know a bit of one, the start of Iron Man by Black Sabbath), so I looped it in reverse in my brain. It worked. But killing was still quite high on my agenda.
8 minutes later I get through to a very nice, but by her own admission quite junior, young lady. She’s lady number 9.
When I explained what’s been going on she brought up my details. After a short conversation, of which my favourite extract is “That’s a terrible problem that’ (which showed to me a great deal of empathy, which I liked) she tells me that my account is showing as ‘pending’ which means that someone needs to ‘close off’ my account before my serial and PIN numbers get generated. And the team that can do that have gone home.
I didn’t swear. I didn’t cry. I just felt a bit. Well. Disappointed.
I knew it wasn’t Paula’s fault, she was only obeying orders. It was the system that had driven her, and all the others, to this. But where does it end? Where does it stop? Who is just obeying orders? And who is really to blame? I start fantasising about the tribunal. Me vs the ginger-bearded Hitler. Unless he’d been smart and taken the cowards’ way out, blown up in his glass bunker in Covent Garden.
But then, back in the real world, she tells me that she’s personally going to sort this out for me. Of her own volition she gives me her name, and her team leader’s name, and promises to call me tomorrow morning. The only moment of good customer service I’ve had on the phone throughout the whole damned thing. And for a moment I realised that not everyone who works for Virgin Media is the a genocidal spawn of Satan. Most, but not all.
So here I am, still on borrowed broadband. Waiting until tomorrow. A new day. A new chapter.
Apologies for the length and self-indulgence of this. I couldn’t really concentrate on doing anything else whilst I was on hold. So I spent the time writing up my thoughts and experiences. As you can see, the hold loop did perhaps drive me to a state of minor distraction.
But there’s a serious point here. A converged offering like Virgin Media shouldn’t be going out there and making all these overblown claims when its systems aren’t in the slightest bit converged. And what adds insult to injury is all the bollocks they’re putting out all over the place about customer service. This really is the worst phone customer service I’ve ever experienced in my life. No question.
I’d love it to be much better. I liked the way that Virgin do things, and I had really high hopes for this. Fingers crossed it really is just teething troubles, but at 9 different people, almost 3 hours on hold and 5 or 6 totally different and incongruous explanations I’m not really feeling it. As I said before: I’m a little disappointed. And it’s not over yet…
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