Dear Virgin Media,
This week I received an e-mail from the Telewest arm of your technical support group, offering up help and advice to try to solve a packet loss and throughput issue I was having. It was very nice of you to offer to help. Problem is, I reported the issue some nineteen days prior on the 17th of October.
Let me fill you in on what happened, and what I believe you've done monumentally wrong.
One day in the middle of October, the 20Mbps Internet connection in my flat became somewhat slower than usual. By that I mean it had gone from 'not close to the 20Mbps I pay for' to 'semaphore is a quicker quicker form of communication than this'. Pages started failing to load, so I investigated.
Of course, you have, in your infinite wisdom, seemingly decided that I should pay for the privilege of informing you that the service I'm already paying for is broken.
After some digging around I discovered sporadic pings and packet loss averaging 25%. That means a quarter of the packets I was sending were either failing to get to their destination, or the packets I was trying to receive weren't getting to me. Some more investigation showed that the problem existed between my modem and its gateway.
The gateway is the next hop on from my modem - the router on your network connecting me and a bunch of other people in the neighbourhood to the rest of the Virgin notwork.
Having verified all was well at my end, I went to ring Virgin Media tech support.
Of course, you have, in your infinite wisdom, seemingly decided that I should pay for the privilege of informing you that the service I'm already paying for is broken, by proving only an '09' premium rate (25p/min) number for broadband tech support. At the time I had little choice but to ring. However, my 'landline' is VoIP - and VoIP doesn't work well over a broken Internet connection, so I had to use a mobile to ring your premium rate number, upping the cost of the call further still.
A bloke in India - I think his name was George - spent a good few minutes wasting my time (to my mind) before he told me there was a problem near me, but he wasn't sure if it was affecting me or not. He told me to wait and see.
To clarify, I just spent a couple of quid or so on a phone call to be told I may or may not have a problem that may or may not soon be fixed. Win.
This time, when I explained to the chap that I'd been having packet loss for over 24 hours, it seemed he tried his best to act shocked. I'm wondering if he'd had a hard day though, because his "oh my god, that's terrible" sounded somewhat hollow.
Unhappy with that I sent an e-mail, using your online form, to tech support detailing exactly the symptoms from my perspective, in the hope that somebody more helpful, knowledgeable and empowered, might read it and action a fix.
By the next day, I was still having issues, and nobody had responded to my e-mail, so I begrudgingly rang tech support again.
This time, when I explained to the chap that I'd been having packet loss for over 24 hours, it seemed he tried his best to act shocked. I'm wondering if he'd had a hard day though, because his "oh my god, that's terrible" sounded somewhat hollow. It was almost as though he wasn't surprised that he had to deal with a fault.
I used to work tech support for a boiler company and I know that by the end of the day it's hard to still sound shocked when you get a customer saying something is broken. Oh well, at least I reckon he tried.
After a few minutes of locating the servers and other hardware connecting me to the Internet (I could swear I heard a fumbling of cables and boxes), my new Indian friend said he'd identified a problem. He then explained that a ticket had been raised and that data would be collected on the problem and who was affected by it, after which it would be fixed. More win.
"You know it's broken, why not just fix it?" I thought to myself. I asked how long it'd take, and once again, I was told I had to wait and see.
Luckily, after a few more hours, my Internet was working 'normally' again (still not 20Mbit, though).
My packets have, since that fateful day, all been going through OK. I have however, recently configured my router to use OpenDNS, because my experience is that your DNS servers drop the ball far too often.
Fast forward to this Monday, some 19 days - nearly three weeks - since the problem started. Your team couldn't find a problem, so gave me a canned list of things to check for, including spyware, traceroutes, test downloads etc.
If I'd chosen not to fork out on premium rate "support" phone calls, and instead opted to resolve the issue exclusively through e-mail, it appears likely I'd have been waiting nineteen days for a response.
Thanks for that. Not only had I done most of the checks you wanted already (19 days prior to you requesting them, no less), I'd provided the data from them in the support e-mail I sent. And to top that off you'd fixed the problem weeks ago.
Now, if any other company had accidentally contacted me about a problem after it was fixed, I'd think "oh, at least they care". But here's the thing... I'm left with the impression that you clearly don't.
If I'd chosen not to fork out on premium rate "support" phone calls, and instead opted to resolve the issue exclusively through e-mail, it appears likely I'd have been waiting nineteen days for a response, perhaps longer still for a resolution. That really riles me up.
In that time, perhaps I could have applied for a job as a Virgin Media engineer, done the interview, got the job, gone on the training course, started work and fixed the damn fault myself... and maybe I'd have made enough money to afford me the luxury of ringing your support line.
The fact of the matter is, if I - or anybody else - has a broadband issue that isn't affecting a large chunk of people, is it not that case that we have to pay to get it fixed in a timely fashion, or simply wait and see if you fix it yourselves?
If my washing machine breaks, I can pay to get it fixed, or try to fix it myself. If my computer breaks, I can pay to get it fixed, or fix it myself. If the Virgin Media network to which I'm connected breaks, I have to pay you to tell you it's not working, then wait - perhaps indefinitely - while you fix it.
That's just not right.
Virgin Media, presumably you deal with the fact that some support calls will be due to user error or PC faults. But does it make sense to penalise those of us with genuine issues?
Presumably your user base is growing, and it seems on an already struggling network. I reckon that if you continue as you are, there'll be a whole lot of people realising that as soon as they have a problem, they have to pay what is in my opinion an unfair price to get it fixed.
I doubt people will like that. But do you care?
I think that matters such as this (and this, and this) should be brought to the attention of a wider audience, so that people can be made aware of the levels of customer care they might expect to receive for a product or service. What do you think? I invite you, Virgin Media, to use the pioneering HEXUS Right2Reply initiative and have your say... I dare-say a lot of readers will be interested to read your response.