Like most people I was really looking forward to my Christmas break away from work, a chance to chill out a bit, unwind, step away from the to-do list and just generally recuperate. Life has been a little hectic of late and I was really looking forward to spending some down time, getting up late, slouching on the sofa, surfing the interwebs, chatting on twitter, online sale shopping – I’m sure you can picture the scene.
Photo by preoccupations
Unfortunately for me Virgin Media had other ideas. Early in December our broadband connection stopped working, a phonecall to a Virgin call centre in India meant being talked through various tests – turn the modem on and off, reboot things, cross you fingers, wish on a star – you know the drill. No joy meant that a technician was booked to come out and fix it. This required someone to be home to let the technician in and they couldn’t come until the day after next. To be fair to Virgin at this stage they refunded the three days that we were without service. By some miraculous trick the interwebs magically mended itself the day that the technician came along so he had nothing to do but leave his mobile number for any further problems in the next fortnight. So far so good.
So when the broadband connection went down again the week of Christmas I wasn’t too concerned and just assumed that the Virgin Media fairy would wave her magic wand and all would be well in the world. However this wasn’t the case, I couldn’t get time off work at such short notice so couldn’t take the first available appointment and agreed to wait in for the technician on Dec 28th – even I wouldn’t begrudge the VM technicians a holiday but it did mean I couldn’t get the sale bargains I had my eye on 😉 Tuesday 28 Dec saw a different technician – who came in, replaced all the equipment (all of it, couldn’t even test it) before telling us what we already suspected that the problem was something external to us (the first time the problem occurred was very snowy, the second time the snow had started to thaw and we suspected it was something outside as nothing internal had changed), he went down the street to an external box (where there was a problem with the points), changed the connection and left reassuring us all would be well. No mobile number given this time – too busy I guess.
For a brief sojourn connectivity was restored, aimless tweeting was engaged in, sales shopping done, christmas emails exchanged, facestalker perused and blogging engaged with. It was fantastic – nothing like a period without internet to make you really appreciate it when it’s back. Only problem was that the new found love for VM was very short lived….by the next morning it was dead again.
You get the picture at this stage – phonecall to Virgin, a Scottish lady called Shona answered – she was very polite while seemingly completely unable to use any discretion – so I explained the situation and that it had happened twice already this month and that the problem was external, she followed her script – insisting that we turn everything off, follow the tests so she can tell me that the problem was external. Grrr. She was terribly sorry but we’d have to wait until the following week to see a technician as they were short staffed over Christmas. My plea to Shona was that however long we waited please could she ensure that someone came who could actually diagnose/fix the problem rather than just treat the symptom – I’m not sure she understood what I was getting at but she wouldn’t budge. So I hung up and bitched to my twittersphere (via my mobile) about the lack of value Virgin Media seemed to place in my time and the lack of concern about solving the problem.
Drumroll please, cue superhero music….in stepped the Virgin Media twitter team. This was Virgin Media at it’s best, they asked what the problem was, offered to help, asked for my details and phoned me, I wasn’t available so they phoned me back ten minutes later. The guy I spoke to was lovely, agreed that they would now ‘own’ the call which meant they could coordinate it and get it sorted. They promised to get me back online as soon as they could but more importantly they genuinely understood the inconvenience and they cared about it….well to be true I don’t know if they did care but it felt like they cared! There was no script, there was banter and empathy, a human response. All was OK, I understood them and they understood me, we could be friends. The VM twitter team worked their magic and arranged a technician to come out the next day between 8-1pm. This would be the third day we’d had to wait in for Virgin but it didn’t matter, we trusted it would get sorted.
The next day I was like an excited kid waiting for a visit from their favourite friend I was up, showered and decently human at 8am just in case the technician stopped off at ours first. 9 o’clock came and went, 10am, coffee at 11am, baked gingerbread and thought the technician could have gingerbread and tea. 12 noon came and went, 1pm….you know that feeling when you’re waiting for a date to turn up but you just know they aren’t going to come. Well yeh, that! At about half one I tweeted my disappointment, the VM twitter team were on the case, they’d try find out what had happened.
Eventually at about 3.30pm I got a phonecall from the technician who had been the time before….he agreed that it was a problem external to our home, he explained that there was no need for me to wait in, I’d wasted an entire day, he didn’t need to come into the property at all because it wasn’t a domestic problem, it was a network problem. Unfortunately the network team were out sick so there was only one guy covering all the surrounding area. I chatted with him a bit and in the course of about a five minute conversation I heard excuse after excuse – the team were out sick, Christmas meant they were too busy, the call centre put notes on but no-one reads them – when questioned on this he claimed his system didn’t allow him to read the notes of our job until it was due otherwise he’d have let me know hours ago not to wait in. He explained how his equipment doesn’t work and he can’t test certain things so he just has to replace everything, then he mentioned that apparently we’re different to the whole of the rest of the country and the call centre just don’t understand the system here. So in a nutshell I’d wasted an entire day and if I was lucky, and he could get hold of networks, and networks weren’t overwhelmed then there was a chance they’d swop out the amp in the box down the road and hey presto the magic would do its work. I took his number (once he remembered it) and he promised to call me back once he’d spoken to networks and let me know what was happening. I’m still waiting for that call. I’m guessing networks did their job and for that I’m grateful. I now have broadband and the VM twitter team were awesome and sent me a tweet to check all was sorted. I guess for now we’ll wait and see how long the solution lasts but it took three days of my life and pretty much took the shine off my Christmas down time.
I understand there are busy times at work and that people get sick and that systems don’t work brilliantly, I understand that the people in the call centre are following their scripts and can’t make autonomous decisions. I also understand that as a customer I don’t want to hear excuses, I want someone to take ownership and to relate to the inconvenience. I’m tempted to bill Virgin for three days of my time wasted resolving this but luckily the twitter team did a good enough job that I’m calm for now, because I felt listened to! My letter to Richard is still in my drafts folder, instead I wanted to shout loudly about how awesome the twitter team are and thank them for their contribution to improving my Christmas. Thank you @virginmedia.