I have just had one of those customer experiences. You know the one that goes on for days, sends your blood-pressure sky-high and makes you feel others should know (and learn from) your experience.
I bought a Nokia N73 at the weekend. The phone is great – I have no problems with the phone, but Virgin Mobile!!!! That is a different matter.
- I bought the phone on Saturday at 1pm and was told by the really helpful person in Virgin Mobile store that they would port my number across from my previous network, Vodafone, and that my new phone would be active with my new number in 1hr.
At this stage I was Virgin Mobile’s biggest fan. One of the most painful aspects of changing network is either losing your number or facing that long phone call in which your previous network desperately tries to convince you not to change supplier!
- By 3pm when the phone still wasn’t working (i.e. I could make no out-going calls, receive no incoming calls, but I could play around with the N73’s features), I thought I’d call the Virgin Mobile helpline. The helpline immediately warned me that the current call time was over 5 minutes and that the Virgin Mobile website had lots of answers to common questions. I’ll give it a try I thought.
Up until this point I can’t fault the customer experience – yes the phone should have started working in the first hour as they promised, but I’m a forgiving guy (honestly!).
- 3.05pm, the Virgin Mobile website has little but marketing and sales information on it. Even after logging in I could find nothing to help me with my “why isn’t my phone working” query.
- 3.06pm, back to the Virgin Mobile helpline. Again I’m warned that the average wait time is over 5 minutes. How much over 5 minutes I wonder?
- I was still wondering at 3.35pm when the phone rep took my call. He took my details and after a couple of moments assured me that my number had successfully ported over from Vodafone and that my phone should be fully functional. “But it isn’t”, I informed him. “Give it another hour, and it will be working fine”. Skeptical, but faith not lost yet, I put down the phone and made careful note of the time.
- 4.35pm, still unable to make outgoing calls or receive incoming calls, but I notice that my old phone has stopped working and that when I dial my old number I go straight through to a Virgin Mobile voicebox. This at least seems promising.
- 4.36pm, I call the store from which I bought the phone. I explain the situation to them. They look my details up in their system and inform me my phone should be fully functional. “But it isn’t” I slightly wearily inform them. They advise I call the Virgin Mobile helpdesk as they will be able to look into any “porting issues” that might have occured.
- 4.40pm, back to the Virgin Mobile helpline. Again I’m warned that the average wait time is over 5 minutes. How helpful it would be if they actually gave me a more realistic sense of time. I appreciate that an exact time would be impossible, but what about “you are currently 153rd in the queue”?
- 5.05pm, I start to wonder if I am paying by the minute?
- 5.08pm, I have heard the same message informing me that I should visit the Virgin Mobile website about twice a minute for the last 28 minutes – I am prepared to kill!
- 5.11pm, through gritted teeth I explain my problem. I am told that the phone should be working fine!!! “But it isn’t!”, I screech. Somehow I let the phone rep get away with telling me that he will get one of the technical operators to look into it “It should be sorted in 15 minutes”.
- 5.26pm, the phone doesn’t miraculously start working.
- That evening, I decide to register my experience by emailing the Virgin Mobile email contact team.
- I had a busy day on Sunday. After waking up to find that my phone wasn’t working and that they hadn’t responded to my email, I got on with my other business until the afternoon.
- Sunday afternoon, I call the Virgin helpdesk. There is no message informing me how long it will take – am I going to go straight through to a phone rep? Six minutes later I spoke to someone. They were amazed that my phone still wasn’t working. They told me that as far as they could see the phone should be working, but that they would get one of their technical operators to look into it. “They are normally very good”, he assured me. Frustrated and approaching the end of my tether, I forced myself to believe him.
- 9.01am, phone still not working. I have a morning full of meetings and any number of potential clients who could be trying to call me. Currently dialing my mobile number goes through to a message saying something like “Mmm, it seems this Virgin Mobile Voice Mail hasn’t been set up. Try sending a text message, or try again later”.
- 12.15pm, I finally get out of my meeting and get to the store from which I bought the phone. I explain the problem and as the sales rep goes through his trouble-shooting routine, I continue to explain my experience. “This isn’t very easy when people don’t stop talking” he informs me. At this stage I could have exploded, but I decide to let it go. “How long do you want?” I ask him. “3o minutes”. “Fine”.
- 12.44pm: It works! It was a faulty Sim card. Something that probably couldn’t have been identified remotely. Why wasn’t I told earlier to go into a store? Why didn’t anyone respond to my email?
- Virgin Mobile’s support staff don’t work in an effective cross-channel way. At no time did the phone representatives suggest that I return to the store to see if they could diagnose the problem. This may be because of the highly franchised nature of the mobile phone outlets, but as a customer I shouldn’t suffer because of the company structure.
- Don’t direct people to websites if the website offers no support – a self-help strategy is effective at reducing the cost of servicing a customer query, but it can only work if you have the content.
- Customer experience matters. Have a good experience and you tell some people, have a bad experience and you tell everyone!
Obviously I suffered what I assume is a pretty rare experience, but one that serves to show the glaring holes in the cross-channel customer support service offered by Virgin Mobile. I am sure that they are no better, nor no worse than other networks.
Virgin Mobile: customer experience consultant for hire
If anyone from Virgin Mobile wants someone to help analyse the cross-channel customer experience they offer for a range of customer tasks, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you very quickly!