Daily Archives: February 19, 2018

Customer service – the Kafka model

Time to go public here.  This is one of many matters I’ve been meaning to blog about but wasn’t getting around to.  But this deserves to be on record somewhere public, and I don’t want to rely on Virgin’s forum where I have been posting it.

My broadband service from Virgin has been misbehaving again.  I’m not sure when it started: it was sometime last year I found myself frequently getting very poor VOIP call quality, which in retrospect was probably a symptom.  Other visible symptoms of the boiling frog included timeouts on the web, and from my mailer.

It’s slightly reminiscent of my previous troubles with Virgin , a nightmare that bears re-reading.  In some ways not as bad: I haven’t had extended complete cut-offs.  But in other ways worse: it was bad enough running the gamut of menus and adverts trying to phone them before, but this time that’s been replaced with an “on hold” noise that’s some yob screaming extremely aggressively: the kind of thing you’d beat a hasty retreat from if you heard it coming from a nearby street.  I didn’t catch any words, but the sound was a most emphatic “F*** OFF”.

Anyway, visiting the website, I find there’s no way to file a support ticket, only supposedly-interactive ways to call them, and a community forum.  The interactive ways don’t work, as will become clear below.

The Forum – once I’ve signed up (groan) – does work, and gets me some helpful replies.  But these aren’t from Virgin, they’re just members of the public.  My thread “Contacting Virgin” there tells the story.  This morning, one post was removed from there.  Not an important post, but if they can remove that then I reckon it’s time to copy the important contents, and not just to the saved page I already have.  So here goes.  My posts verbatim; replies omitted in case any other poster might be bothered by copyright on their words.

Jan. 30th: 15:53

I have a problem with virgin broadband: it’s very slow (less than 1% of the theoretical speed[1]) and so intermittent that many things are simply timing out, and phone (VOIP) has become unusable.

So I tried to contact Virgin. First online, where it tells me their support team are unavailable (yes, this is within the opening hours advertised – most recently today about 15:20). Then by (mobile) ‘phone, where after 4 minutes of menus it puts me indefinitely on hold. Then today I went in person into a Virgin shop, where the staff could (or would) do absolutely nothing, and wouldn’t even let me try to ‘phone customer support from there.

How the **** do I contact them?

I have just now taken the precaution of cancelling my direct debit. Maybe that’ll prompt them to contact me?

[1] e.g. http://www.speedtest.net/result/6991612663 , http://www.speedtest.net/result/7004521118

[first reply tells me I have contacted them by posting, but it’ll take “about a week”, and advises me to post some info from my router]

Jan 30th: 17:06 (as I was about to head out):

Thanks Tony. Yes, I’m at my desk, working wired (I use wireless too, but not for things like speedtest). Both are equally affected.

Sadly this editor won’t accept cut&paste from my router’s status pages. Well, actually it looks fine when I paste it in and in preview, but then rejects it when I try to post. I may try again later, but not now.

I could add my earlier experience of Virgin failing here, especially https://bahumbug.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/cut-off-again/

Feb 8th: 08:32

Well, my broadband appears to be back. In fact, it’s faster than it’s ever been before, or than I ever asked for: http://www.speedtest.net/result/7040027720 . In fact I seem to recollect that when the man from Virgin came to install my kit for a 30 Mb/s connection, he mentioned explicitly throttling something back for that.

That (still) doesn’t resolve the issue of contacting Virgin. If it’s pure coincidence that they fixed it after my attempts to contact them. that leaves me in limbo again next time something fails. Alternatively, if something I did (like my session with their menus from the mobile phone, or my posting here) prompted them to fix it silently, that’s an extremely unsatisfactory way to treat clients.

Either way, there needs to be a way to contact Virgin and get either a fix or at least an acknowledgement that a fault has been logged and will be checked out, rather than leave a customer in limbo! Not to mention an acknowledgement of known faults on Virgin’s status pages (this fault may have been unknown to Virgin until my attempts to contact them, but the one that led to my blog post referenced above was certainly known to them).

Tony, do you act for Virgin here, or am I still completely un-acknowledged by the company?

[another helpful reply telling me – among other things – this forum is the best way to contact virgin and suggesting 7-10 days for a reply from staff]

Feb. 16th, 22:44 (after nasty email from their billing)

No contact here after two and a half weeks. Perhaps I have to go to ofcom?

(Ofcom website tells me there’s an ombudsman, but I have to wait 8 weeks before trying them).

Feb 16th, 23:05 (after an attempt to reply to billing unsurprisingly bounced).

Seems I can’t reply to their email, either. So for the record, here’s what I just tried to send. There’s a “contact us” link in their email, but that just brings me straight back here!

On Fri, 16 Feb 2018 14:50:08 +0000
“Virgin Media” <Letters@virginmediacollections.co.uk> wrote:

> Important information about your Virgin Media Account
> Account Number: ********
> Overdue Balance: £33.23

I have no idea if this address reaches a real human, but
I shall reply in the hope that it does.

I need to be able to contact Virgin Media concerning my
service. I have tried in various ways, without success.
Please see my thread at

At the time of the original problem, or probably even of
that post, I’d have accepted being able to get through to
a call centre droid. I think now it’s gone beyond that,
and I’d be looking to speak to a real person, and to
get at least an apology for the lack of service.

Another helpful reply commenting on the difficulty contacting them, and concluding with a paragraph that really, really deserves reproducing here:

A cynic might conclude they do not want to make it easy and do not want you to have any record of their statements, but surely that is just being paranoid?

Note, the three replies mentioned above are all from different posters.  What they have in common is forum labels describing them respectively as “Superuser”, “Super Solver” and “Knows their stuff”.  I presume those labels are based on their track records in Virgin’s fora.

Getting up to date, here’s Feb. 19th, 10:31:


They’ve just ticked another box in a diabolical blame game.

That is to say, half an hour ago, I got a call to my mobile ‘phone, showing the caller as Virgin Media. When I answered, it wasn’t a human, but a robotic voice asking questions to answer on the keypad.

Question 1: am I me? Press 1 for yes. OK so far.
Question 2: enter some password. Erm, WTF? Even if I had a clue what password they’re talking about, how likely is it I’d have it to hand at the moment they call me?

So now they’ve ticked a box. Call the customer, check. Customer confirms identity, check. But customer hangs up. How many customers could hope to explain that to any kind of adjudicator without appearing now to be firmly in the wrong?

Well, if anyone’s still reading, thank you.  I hope you’re duly amused.  I shall aim to update here as and when things happen, but no promises.  I do still have a 4G device, which is a faff to use but means at least I’m not completely reliant on Kafka’s castle at Liberty Global.