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An open letter to Virgin Media

by Steve Kerrison on 9 November 2007, 09:35

Tags: Virgin (NASDAQ:VMED)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qakdl

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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.

Kind regards,
Steve Kerrison.



HEXUS Forums :: 51 Comments

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I signed up to Virgin Media after getting a flyer through the post. I’d arranged for my BT line to get cut off (I can only get ½ a Mb so was looking for something faster) after I’d signed up on line for the full works (Broadband, phone, tv) and booked my installation date. I was told I’d be contacted with 24hrs to confirm (by email I think). 4 days later and 2 days before I’d lose my BT phone/broadband I rang up to find out what was going on. I spoke to some chap how started apologising as someone should have rung me to tell me I’m in a Cable Restricted area and would be unable to get cable! Frantic calls to BT got the phone stepped back but had to re-sign to their broadband.
Not greatly impressed with Virgin, flyers saying I’m in luck, a website site saying I’ll get super fast connection, a sign up process that confirmed this and took my financial details, and then no one tells me I’m not actually that going to get it? Wonder if they’d ever have called?
I *TOTALLY* agree with the letter, and your distaste for Virgin's “Technical Support”.

Issue 1 :

When the 20Mbit service was initially rolled out in Nottingham, i jumped at the chance, and phoned up customer services (*CS) to change my billing. Interestingly enuff, the “want to upgrade your account” phone line at CS gets picked up without even ringing, unlike their support, or complains dept.

Anyway, after sorting out the money side of the account, i was told the change would take 5-10 minutes, my service would drop out, the modem would reboot, then i'd be live.
I sat at my PC, with a constant ping running, and without 2 minutes, it was rebooted, and i was running at 20mbit, or so i thought.

I ran a few speed tests, all were hitting exactly 10Mbit (950kb > 1040kb), and not any faster. So i rang CS, who suggested it was a line fault, and i was to ring their tech support (*TS). After over an HOUR on the phone with TS, they suggested my network card was faulty, and i should swap it. I duely ran off and plugged in a laptop and the same thing happened.
It took *me* to actually look at the modem and realise it had a 10baseT network point, and realise that this would be the issue, i was paying for 20Mbit on a modem only capable of 10Mbit.

Issue 2 :
Just last week, the internet slowed to a crawl, in a similar fashion to your Letter, packet loss, traceroutes going astray.

Phoning TS again, i had clear undenyable prove. I still had to sit thru 10 minutes (at 25p a minute), of what could only have been a pre-doctored script that Virgin had given its TS agents ;
1. Are the lights on on the modem. ?
2. Do you have a cable from the modem to your computer. ?
3. Are there little lights flashing on the computer, where the cable goes. ?

Considering i mentioned i had failing traceroutes, and packet loss, would suggest i was alittle more technical than Joe Bloggs, and to skip the obviously crap questioning policy, that seems to place the customer at fault from the initial “hello”.

Again, after 50mins on the phone, the agent suggested it was a problem with my PC, and that should get it inspected, suggesting PC-World.

5 minutes of ranting on the phone to him, and several modem reboots later, that i wasnt told was going to happen, and the problem resolved itself. The problem, as i had told him when he first accepted the call, was that their transparent proxy in Leicster was not working properly, as thats where 90% of the traceroutes were failing.

In total, 1hr40 on the phone, or £25, for some indian to deny a fault on Virgins network AND fix it, all while trying to suggest my network card was at fault…..

After complaining to the relevent dept, i was refunded £30, and offered half price service for 2 months. After the 2 months half price is up, unless im offered discounted 50Mbit (as i have always been on NTL/Virgins top teir packages) i will be looking elsewhere.

One VERY moody, if not pissed off NTL/Virgin Customer.

—-
Edit : I've never openly voiced my opinions on a forum about this before, as i thought doing so on “NT-HELL World” or similar was just petty, and nobody would take it seriously. But with a respectable website like Hexus, Virgin might take note.
Big D, if you look up you exchange here Samknows you should be able to find availability and any scheduled upgrades in your area.
Gunbuster
Big D, if you look up you exchange here Samknows you should be able to find availability and any scheduled upgrades in your area.

Wow, thanks a lot Gunbuster! :thumbsup:
I've been looking for someting like that for a while now, thanks!:thumbsup::clapping:
I think the issue is with the fact we are paying so little for these services, since, in a competitive market how is a company to make money to improve technical support and services when they are all too busy fighting to gain new customers.

It is a nasty situation for us all to be in, and I understand the frustration. I'm with Pipex (at the moment) and the few run in's I've had with them are proving painful at times.

David