Tale of Two Brands: Virgin Atlantic versus Virgin Mobile

Submitted by Kip on Thu, 03/24/2011

I love Virgin Atlantic.

One of the reasons I do is I believe they really, really do care about their customers. As proof of this, one time back in 1994 I had a problem with one of their flights and wrote a note to Richard Branson to make him aware of it (this was back in the days in which you still wrote letters that went through the post office).

I was incredibly impressed when I got a personal note back from him apologizing for the problem and putting 20,000 miles into my frequent flyer account to help make up for the hassle I went through. I still keep his signed letter in my desk as a reminder of how powerful one person can be in creating a lasting, positive image for a brand.

So since I love all things associated with Sir Richard, about six months ago I decided to sign up for the Virgin Mobile WiFi service. All you needed a to buy a $100 MiFi unit to get started along with $40 a month.

I'm sorry to report to all my fellow Internt users that after messing around with this for about 4 months, I'd had enough. The unit didn't hold a charge more than an hour and didn't get a signal most of the time. Total waste of time and money.  By the way, I've now got a Verizon Personal Hotspot on my iPhone and it's great - works every time and is very easy to use.

So I contacted the Virgin Mobile customer service center and they were kind enough to agree to let me return the MiFi unit for a full refund. Which I did. At the end of January. And I'm still waiting to get it.

What's truly amazing is how clueless this organization is about working with their customers. For example, I've had several calls with them in which I was on hold for 10 to 25 minutes at a time while they played a random set of music and what sounds like people talking and yelling (which at first you'll think is a "live" person coming back on the line until you finally get used to it).

And then they'll randomly switch your call to someone in a customer service center in Nicargua who has no idea what you're talking about so you get to start over...if you've seen "Groundhog's Day", you'll know exactly what I'm referring to.

One agent promised me his boss would call right back (I'm still waiting, Will Williams).

But the best part of all is these "customer satisfaction emails" I've been getting after all of this. I've gotten 3 so far and marked everything as low as you could go (thinking this might actually get someone to email me or call me and find out what the heck is going on). But so far the robots are generating more emails to me (I guess Charlie Sheen would say the robots are "winning!") and my cries for help are going unheeded.

So that's it for me...I'm writing this whole thing off as a really bad user experience.  They can have my money - at this point it's just not worth the aggravation of dealing with folks as totally incompetent as this Virgin Mobile "customer service" team is (I put customer service in quotes for a reason).

The sad part about it is while I've still got my letter from Sir Richard, I've now got a much lower opinion of the entire Virgin Brand now.I might even have to fly BA next time I'm heading to London.

Sorry, Richard, you really need to have your customer service team get some of that love you gave me back in 1994. Unless they do, I'm very skeptical the Virgin Brand is going to stand the test of time in the future.  And in the meantime, I'd suggest they replace the lousy music you have to listen to while you're on hold and play "Where Is The Love?" by the Black Eyed Peas instead.......seems only appropriate given the circumstances.

What's been your best and worst customer service experience?  I'd love to hear yours so we can either give them the appropriate credit or blame.