Finding the Ideal Phone Company – Virgin Mobile

I’ll cut to the quick. Unusual for me, I know.

The purchase experience – at Radio Shack left a lot to be desired, but that is, perhaps, the subject for another day. I bought a pay-as-you-go phone as a standby after loosing my Treo in London (way back in November for those following this thread – the fact that my ‘standby’ phone is still not working two plus months late is the clue) I wanted something that I could use easily and simply.

I’ve long been a Virgin admirer, I love the brand and many of the fun and slightly irreverent attributes it portrays. So a Virgin Mobile phone fits the bill. Cheap – $50 – and I use it when I need it. The second phone – I’ll write about the first one soon, I promise – is registered (by me this time) on the web. Fairly well explained, fairly good user experience, no problem. I finish the process and sit back, waiting for the promised text message that will tell me the phone is live.

It doesn’t come. I try the phone. I get a service, ‘Virgin Mobile’ it says on the screen. I smile. I dial.

“ Soandso’s Roaming Network, Calls will be charged at $2.99 and $1.99 per minute. Please dial the number you require.” Not bloody likely! Where is my 18c per minute?

I email support. “Please call us.” The response I was dreading. I call. The first day I call EIGHT times (line dropped, voice response hell and dead ends in the voice response option chain) in order to speak to a human. The last call was 23 minutes before I was unceremoniously dropped. And the problem remained. Everyone – very politely, perkilly, and informally ‘Hi Graham, yes I understand your problem“, responded but no-one fixed the issue. They all knew what the problem was, the serial number of the phone wasn’t being properly recognized, but no-one could fix it.

After being finally dropped, I calmed down till the next day. Put on my best calm customer head and called again. The voicemail system is as bad as any I have met for complexity and befuddlement – it takes me on average five minutes to get to a human. Remember, I’m an independent, this is not fee earning time and this is my tenth or twelfth time of calling. I asked for a supervisor and got put through without question (excellent). Sean, it turns out from Spokane, is calm, professional, and helpful. He knows what the problem is. I smile. But he doesn’t fix it either.

”OK it looks like this is not going to work, please just refund my airtime payment to my credit card.“ I say.

”Oh, we don’t give refunds“, say Sean, ”It said so in the terms and conditions.“

”But you can’t make it work, it seems unreasonable to charge me when you can’t provide service.“

”We don’t give refunds, he says…….“ I’d got the drift by then. Virgin Mobile take your money – and they keep it, even when they admit they can’t provide service.

”I’ll take it up with American Express (the card I used to pay for service) if I have to.“ I say.

”Please do.“ says Sean. ”I can escalate the problem and it will be fixed in 48 hours.“

I’m all out of choices, so I quit.

Sean I can tell you that much beyond the 48 hours, the phone is still not working.

So I shall call Amex and I’m sure they will credit me. But why do I have to? The problem is Virgin’s and should not be given back to the customer. Why do I have to do battle with a company that presumably set out to want me as a customer?

Pretty shoddy set of terms and conditions – I paraphrase – ”Give us money on trust and even if we can’t provide what we promised to, we’ll keep your money“.

Richard, you need to get back to the straight dealing you are famous for. It’s your brand they are messing up.


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Brand, Bad Customer Service, Customer Service, Phone}

Technorati Tags: Bad Customer Service, Brand, Marketing, Product Management, User Experience, WOM

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