An Open Letter to CISAS and Virgin Media

Virgin Mediocre

An Open Letter to CISAS and Virgin Media

Case Number 212140893

CISAS – Thank you for your letter of 27th March 2014 confirming you have rejected my claim for compensation and an apology from Virgin Media. You have asked that I advise you on or before 8th May 2014 whether I accept or reject your decision. I reject your decision, and here are some of the reasons why:

Virgin Media stated to you that ‘the service was fully installed onto the customer’s Mac Book laptop on 16th December 2013. The connection was tested via an Ethernet cable, it did not connect wirelessly as this is the customer’s responsibility.’

Virgin Media’s statement is untrue. Although I was in the house on December 16th 2013 when the engineers arrived, I left to travel to meetings in London while the engineers were installing the TV and broadband services. I took my Apple Mac Book into London with me – so it would not have been possible for the Virgin Media engineers to connect it to their Superhub router with an Ethernet cable as they say they did. Furthermore, my Apple Mac Book doesn’t have an Ethernet connection on it, so the Ethernet cables subsequently provided by Virgin Media on December 30th 2013 cannot be physically connected to my Apple Mac Book.

Virgin Media states that ‘broadband has always worked on a wired connection’. Virgin Media’s statement is untrue. On several occasions when I telephoned Virgin for technical support, even though we had a computer directly connected to the Superhub it still wouldn’t access broadband without the Superhub being reset, and we often had to reset the Superhub several times in any one day.

Virgin Media states that it ‘cannot support a 3rd party router’, even though the temporary fix installed on December 30th 2013 and the subsequent temporary fix installed on the 14th February 2014 both rely on third party equipment, namely a d-link router. I’m still unsure why I should accept a solution which relies on equipment that Virgin Media says it does not support?

There are other inconsistencies in their defence. Don’t get me wrong, I expect Virgin Media to defend their position, and I don’t expect them to resort to lying to you.

In most of my telephone dealings with Virgin Media the staff have been friendly. They’ve been rude about each other on occasion and they’ve been civil to me. Over the telephone they have acknowledged that a) their service has not been adequate and b) they have acknowledged that on several occasions they’ve not done what they said they would (escalated matters, returned phone calls etc). The engineers who were sent to site have also been friendly, although some of their proposed solutions (including leaving an ethernet cable trailing from an upstairs bedroom all the way down the stairs to the TV) were dangerous and impractical. I am really disappointed that Virgin Media has seen fit to be untruthful in their written defence. I’m also disappoint that CISAS has seen fit to believe Virgin Media unquestioningly, even though independent review sites such as TrustPilot rate Virgin Media so poorly.

In their letter to me dated March 28th 2014 Virgin Media say ‘We’re disappointed we couldn’t reach an amicable resolution.’ I too am disappointed, but based on the fact that Virgin told lies in its defence to the adjudicator, and the adjudicator didn’t challenge any of the discrepancies between us, I am not surprised.

I have no further recourse via CISAS and I have more pressing business than to pursue Virgin Media further. This has been a fascinating lesson in how the odds seem stacked against the consumer, and I hope that by publishing my earlier blog post and this response to your adjudication, I can at least highlight that Virgin Media is a company willing to lie to the adjudicator in the event of a complaint about the service it provides.

photo credit


Given the attention this post is getting – I want to add something further in the interests of being balanced and open. I let Virgin Media’s CEO office know I was going to complain to the adjudicator, and I told Virgin Media I was seeking compensation of £1,000 and an apology. Virgin Media then offered to credit me three months off my bill. I declined, and they increased the offer to five months. I said if they would confirm that offer I would withdraw my complaint. Virgin Media then emailed me to say they would credit my account for five months of service charges, but not the whole bill. I responded saying that did not reflect what I thought we had agreed and they stuck to their guns. At that point I declined their offer, which may have been foolish given the farce which has continued to play out. Apologies for not including this beforehand – on reflection I think it is relevant.


Virgin on the Ridiculous

Virgin on the Ridiculous

16th December 2013 – a day that is seared into my memory. The day we let Virgin Media into our home to provide us with TV, phone and broadband services.

I had to leave the house before the installers finished their work – and when they did – they showed Carole the TV and phone were working, but not the wireless broadband. We immediately started having problems with the new router – having to reset it every couple of hours to get service.

On Christmas Eve, after acknowledging their online systems were showing faults lighting up like a Christmas tree, Virgin Media returned and replaced the router. They call their router a SuperHub, it doesn’t feel very super to me. The replacement misbehaved in exactly the same way. After further attempts to fix the problem by phone, Virgin Media sent another engineer out on December 30th. This time – another router, something called a D-Link, was placed into the mix, and the SuperHub was reset to work in modem only mode. I was told the purpose of this set up was temporary and necessary to see if the problem was with the SuperHub, or with interference in our house. Inelegant yes, but at least it was functioning.

Inelegant and Temporary

On December 31st we got a phone call to see if everything was OK, but unfortunately the call came during a short power cut so I wasn’t able to test anything. The caller promised to phone back on January 3rd. January 3rd came and went with no call. A couple more days passed then I hopped onto Twitter for a bit of a moan. The only help I was offered on Twitter was a suggestion that I call back again. I called and explained my frustration with the lack of call backs and the temporary nature of the fix and was told my call needed to be escalated – could I please leave it with Virgin Media and they would get back to me. Promise.

Another week passed and no call back. Another promise broken. All this time we had been powering two routers, the SuperHub and the D-Link, and while the service had remained constant – this was only ever meant to be a temporary test fix.

I called Virgin Media again just over a week ago. This time – the guy who spoke to me berated the previous jobs, demeaned his colleagues and proceeded to fiddle about with everything via a remote connection and with my help. I couldn’t believe how much he slagged off his colleagues – and by the end of this call, the D-Link router was back out of the equation, various things had been faffed with and reset, and I was being reassured that everything would be OK.

Since Mr Arrogant came to our rescue we’ve had to continue to reset the SuperHub in order to get service. Seems his attitude about his other colleagues was not only rude, but misplaced too. I called Virgin Media again today and spent 51 minutes trying not to lose it with the guy on the phone. I’m afraid I wasn’t convinced he knew what he was doing and I felt like I had more idea about what was wrong than he did. The problem is exacerbated because all the case notes written on their system by Virgin Media people previously are sketchy at best. So each time I call I have to replay most of the story, you can imagine how happy I am about that!

So here we are five weeks down the line, paying for a service that doesn’t work, promised phone calls not happening and getting conflicting information when we call to chase Virgin Media. I’ve tweeted Virgin again and this time been asked to fill out an enquiry form. Whoop de doo! I await their response, with minimal faith.

How can you get customer service so badly wrong?

#1 Update – aka you couldn’t make it up.

This morning I have been contacted by Virgin Media again. They’re asking me to complete an enquiry form – identical to the one I filled in yesterday. Maybe I’m just not awake yet? The nightmare revolves and continues. Eat. Sleep. Mistake. Repeat.

#2 Update – Poetry Style

While I wait for Virgin Media to call, I’ve put my customer experience down in a rhyme.

So far I’ve had this by way of a response – but no call yet…

Hello Doug.

We’ll get to your form and we will race, to get your broadband fixed and put a smile on your face. I know it’s a worry but please don’t fret, you’ll soon be connected to the Internet. Your experience has been bad, that I’ll admit, but we’ll turn it around, we won’t quit. We’re here to help and we’ll find the cure, for your dodgy broadband that’s for sure.

#3 Update

Over four hours has passed since our earlier poetic exchange and I’ve not heard any more. Just sent this to Virgin Media:

4 hours ago you said you’d rush. So far no call, only hush. How long you gonna keep me waiting. More delay is just frustrating.

#4 Update

We’ve had Virgin Media installed for 8 weeks and one day (today is February 12th 2014), and the service has been and remains faulty since the first day it was installed. Four engineer visits (one of which involved trailing an 8 foot wire across the room leaving the router balanced on a cupboard door to see if the service was any better there), replaced hardware, numerous phone calls and emails. No resolution.

#5 Update

We had another engineer visit, making five site visits in total. On the fifth visit, the engineer reinstalled the temporary fix, bypassing their equipment with a third party router. We have agreed to accept this mess if in return we get a reasonable, stable service. In addition, we are seeking compensation via the adjudicator for all the inconvenience caused by Virgin Media. Most recently, Virgin Media has submitted an 8 page defence of its appalling service. It is full of inaccuracies and frequently states that Virgin Media do not support third party hardware – despite installing third party hardware in our house twice. The matter is unresolved as at March 9th 2014.

Stuck in the Middle

In a previous life circa 1990, back in the days when customer service was a bit of a misnomer, I worked in PC World, Guildford. Typically at that time, each customer who brought something back would be gently interrogated and dissuaded from trying to return a product. We were trying to hold onto our revenue, and often the consequence of this was unhappy customers.

Delivering Good Service

During a very busy period – I volunteered to run customer services (my colleagues thought I was nuts), and I shifted the balance a little. Instead of dissuading the customer from getting a refund, we adopted a new approach to returns, refunds etc. If someone brought something back which had cost £50 or less, it didn’t matter if it was broken, unwanted, faulty, whatever – we just gave them their money back. Staff had the autonomy to get the simple stuff done without continually checking in for permission. No arguments – no fuss.

Did some customers take advantage? Probably. But our approach kept the returns queue short and left us time to deal with the bigger stuff, and got many satisfied people back into the store shopping again. This wasn’t how we were supposed to do it according to the manual, but there was nothing sneaky about what we did, and it worked. An early example of Proceed Until Apprehended.

Delivering An Empty Box

I recently ordered a product online. The product was duly shipped to me and last week, I took delivery of a small package from my postman. Unfortunately – the package was all I took delivery of, the box having been forced open and the contents removed somewhere between the dispatch depot and my front door. As soon as I realised that all I had was an empty box I ran after the postman on the slimmest chance that the contents had somehow fallen out of the box and into his bag. No such luck, so I got on the phone to Royal Mail.

The guy on the phone at Royal Mail did a fantastic impression of someone who couldn’t give a shit about customer service – and reluctantly gave me a complaint reference. He wouldn’t do any more other than inform me that I couldn’t make a claim because I am not Royal Mail’s customer. Maybe I got unlucky and got mr grumpy drawers, but it felt to me like I was dealing with an organisation that affords its staff no autonomy to resolve issues – this guy was just going through the motions.

Disappointing though this is – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. In a recent Daily Telegraph article about Royal Mail’s employee engagement results, Steve Hawkes writes, ‘Less than four in ten [employees] support Royal Mail’s “strategy and direction”, under a third feel “valued and recognised” while 14pc claim to have been bullied or harassed in the workplace, mainly by their immediate line manager.’ Hardly the kind of working environment designed to foster a sense of accountability and ownership eh?

In fairness I did try tweeting Royal Mail who were much more helpful via this channel than over the phone, although in the end I got no further forward as I realised the package had been shipped initially by TNTPost, and delivered by Royal Mail, who then advised me to approach TNTPost.

The guy on the phone at TNTPost said it couldn’t have happened at their end because Royal Mail refuse to accept ‘tampered with’ mail from TNTPost. Nicely sidestepped.

Here I am, stuck in the middle (someone should write a song about that…).

I have since been in touch with the seller and it looks like they are going to resend the item and try and claim the cost back from TNTPost. Based on the response I extracted from TNTPost – I wish them good luck.

Deliver Me From This – Please!

So what are we left with?

1 – a customer who is pissed that his goods are missing someone has opened his post and stolen from him

2 – a pair of fulfilment companies – with a failed fulfilment somewhere in the chain

3 – a supplier who seems willing to have another go with no certainty that they are going to be reimbursed

It looks likely that somewhere in among TNTPost and Royal Mail, my goods have gone missing a theft has occurred. Yet because both companies choose to shrug their shoulders, and point fingers, it’s the people at either end of the chain who get yanked (pardon the pun).

The value of the stolen missing item is only £30. It comes to something when two huge, profitable companies can’t create an environment where employees can exercise  common sense to resolve a simple issue like the one I’ve just described. If employee engagement can be experienced meaningful ways, I think one of these is the way a company encourages its people to serve others. HR could and should always have this in mind – how do we add greater value? I think part of the answer is simply this: Through cocreating excellent service.