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Friday, 11 June 2010

My Virgin media saga (or how, just when I thought it was resolved, they threw in a curve ball!)

I got a new smartcard from Virgin Media recently. I put it in the slot somewhat apprehensively but it was fine, everything worked...until the next morning. Then began a catalogue of events that had me almost literally tearing my hair out.

I phoned Virgin Media's technical support at around 8.15 in the morning and explained that when switching the computer on that morning I got a ‘self-assigned’ ‘169.’ IP address. I was told it could be a fault with my computer’s network adapter. I suggested that as I had only previous afternoon installed the new smart card I had been sent that perhaps it could be something to do with that. I was told quite categorically that the smart card had nothing to do with broadband and thus couldn’t affect it.

I had to take my son to school, but upon my return home I phoned technical support again and was told by the second person I spoke to that day that I would be better off having a stand alone modem which would be installed free of charge. I was then put through to someone else (we’ll call him person 3) who told me because I had a set top box it would be £35 installation and that they couldn’t send someone out until 5th June at the earliest. I said that that timescale was ridiculous and I would think about it.

Having thought very briefly about their pretty rubbish offer, I phoned back and asked to speak to a Mac specialist. I got through to someone (Person 4) who suggested I try their wonderful digital home support service. £6 a month for as much technical assistance over the phone as you need. I said it sounded good and that I’d happily pay it if they could get me back online.

I was then again put through to someone else (Person 5) who tried to talk me through fixing the problem via me accessing the computer’s ‘terminal’. He then realised after we tried a few remedial bits and pieces that I was using a Mac and said he couldn’t help but that the Mac specialist started at 4pm and I should call back then.

I called about 4.15pm only to be told by Person 6 that the Mac specialist had gone into a meeting and that I could only speak to him if I was a Digital Home Support service subscriber. They then chucked into the conversation the fact that digital home support doesn’t actually cover those with a set top box! The only solution would therefore be to get a modem and the next available appointment was not until the 10th June - 5 days later than I had been told just a few hours earlier! It begged the question 'how many technicians work in my area and do they travel by horse and cart? Eleven days waiting time is a disgrace and merely added insult to injury for a problem that I hadn’t created.

Somewhere along the way I was also told by one of Persons 1 - 6 that Virgin are phasing out set top boxes and that the old server I used to get my IP address from is no longer active! So why send me a new smartcard for my set top box then? That doesn’t suggest to me that they are phasing out set top boxes. Why not instead a letter stating in no uncertain terms that if I do not get a stand alone modem I will never be able to go online again?

I was also told later in the day by someone in their Teesside Customer Services/Relations that they had heard of the same problem i.e. people getting a new smart card and then being unable to go online - from some customers in Leeds. Confused? I was. I was also rapidly losing the will to live so asked to speak to a manager, which I duly did.

The Manager couldn’t really do anything for me other than apologise, but pointed me in the direction of a technical specialist who would, he assured me, call me the following morning. He also gave me a direct line number, just in case I didn’t hear anything.

That evening, more out of desperation than hope, I rebooted the system again and to my surprise got a ‘10.40’ IP address. I phoned technical assistance and Person, let me see, it would be Number 9 I think, said it looked promising. We went through the computer provisioning log in screen and I rebooted again – but still no broadband connection. When I went back to the phone, Number 9 had been cut off or hung up. It was late in the evening and frankly I was tired of spending so many hours on the phone being told different things by each different person I spoke to.

The next day I waited in all morning before phoning the direct line I had been given. The phone rang for 4 minutes (no voicemail, there’s a surprise!) before I gave up. I then spoke to someone in customer services (or customer relations, who knows? They have department's called both) in Sheffield this time (it’s a lucky dip system, Sheffield or Teesside. Where it stops no one knows!). I asked them to email the Manager I had spoken to the previous day for an update.

My phone then rang at 12.16pm. I picked it up after one ring but whoever had called had had second thoughts. I did a 1471 and a redial and lo and behold it was a nice message from the Virgin customer team saying ‘you need do nothing, the time and date of the appointment for an engineer to come out has been confirmed’ – I hadn’t even agreed a time and date! That was the whole point! I had questioned the need to wait eleven days to rectify something that wasn’t my fault and was waiting for this technical guru to phone me and have a crack at resolving the issue without the need to resort to modem boxes – and, if it turned out I needed a modem, I wanted one much sooner than in eleven days time.

It was after 4pm by the time the manager phoned me to apologise for no one getting back to me sooner - and no, he doesn't have a voicemail on his phone. He then promised me that a fault technician would come out the following Monday (the bank holiday just gone) between 12 & 4pm, which he duly did and the problem was sorted in 15 minutes after he installed the modem I had previously been told for the last day and a half that I couldn't have until the 10th June!

But the story doesn't end there.

Out of courtesy I phoned Virgin Media on the following Monday, a couple of days before the engineer was due to come out. After all I didnt need him anymore and is is only polite to cancel unnecessary appointments. Bad move.

I discovered after the person at the other end of the phone cancelled the appointment my broadband had been cut off!

I immediately phoned back and spoke to another person who then told me it would be escalated to 2nd level IT and may take some time. How long? I enquired - BETWEEN FIVE AND SEVEN DAYS!!! I was told. What followed was, I must admit, a bit of a tirade of expletives from me, but come on, this was madness! A bad dream. For taking the trouble to cancel an appointment, Virgin Media cut off my broadband and then tell me that I may not be online for a week? You really couldn't write it as a sitcom, people wouldn't believe you, but believe me, this was no comedy, well it was, one of error after error. Shakespeare has nothing on Virgin media.

I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Here I was, having been dicked around for days the week before, the fault technician managing to do in minutes what countless people between them couldn't do in the previous 5 days and now here i was, once again the victim of Virgin media's incompetence. I honestly felt like was on the verge of a breakdown such was the exasperation of the situation.

I resigned myself to another few webless days and recounted the story to a few friends and members of my family. Each were totally amazed at the lack of cohesion that exists at Virgin media. An arse elbow situation they said. And it was. And is.

Thankfully, one bright spark somewhere in the bowels of this multi-site, multi-hymn book (none of them the same sadly) organisation spotted that someone had 'left a bit of code' in the wrong place and that this is what was causing the loss of broadband. Once again, a simple solution to a problem that Virgin media had made sound irretrievable within a timescale of less than 5 days. Incredible!

Put simply, it's the worst case of customer service I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. One department doesn’t know what the other is doing or talking about. I was passed around the Virgin Media organisation from person to person and on the first occasion, after maybe 5 hours spent on the phone over a day and a half was no nearer a resolution until they finally told me they would send out a fault technician. (Why didn't they do that at the beginning of my calls, rather than some 32 hours later?). Then a week later I had to go through a similar scenario once again because of a fault of Virgin Media's creation, not mine.

I tell you, if Virgin Media were a brewery there would be no piss ups! I've been with them for 15 years but am seriously considering a move. No one could be worse than them customer service wise could they?

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