Long live unreasonable people

9 09 2007

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Brian had his phone stolen on 1st June and I’m telling his story to enlighten you on Virgin’s “service” to its disabled customers.

He tried to telephone Virgin when he got home to notify them of the loss but could barely hear the answerphone, let alone make out the options of which keys to press for what. He tried a few times, but in the end had to admit defeat and so he emailed them to notify them of the loss. The email receipt was acknowledged.

The next morning, he checked the account only to find the thief had been phoning people left right and centre. He tried to phone again, but with no more success than the night before and he had to go to work so wasn’t able to get to the Virgin store until his shift had finished. The lass in the store phoned through for him, reported the loss – again – and this time the phone was blocked.
Virgin has billed him for the calls made. He had to pay up before they would close the account completely and let him access his new account on-line. Brian doesn’t have a contract, he has Pay as you Go with a direct debit facility, so the thief was able to run up a large bill. He cancelled the direct debit immediately, but as Virgin hadn’t blocked the phone, the bill accumulated and then Virgin refused to sort out problems with his new account until he had paid up. A guy from Brian’s local store phoned Virgin’s Central Communications to point out that his bundles – and all communications – were text and had been for years (you could see from his on-line statements). They still refused to accept and that’s when Brian had to pay up by debit card or be stuck in a loop and unable to do anything with his new account. So Brian paid up in order to get his new number sorted, but is protesting strongly about the fact he should have been considered liable at all.

He wrote to them saying:

    I am deaf and was unable to telephone to notify of the loss when I noticed it – which was at 23:40 on 1st June. I did the only thing I could and e-mailed Virgin – said email being sent at 23:55 on 1st June.
    The thief apparently started making calls at 23:44.
    I checked the account on the morning of 2nd June and discovered the thief was running up quite a bill.
    I couldn’t get to my local store until after my shift, but went into Virgin as soon as I finished my shift and they made a telephone notification of the loss and blocked the SIM.
    The last phone call the thief made was at 13:03 on 2nd June.
    Had I been able to physically telephone and report the phone stolen on 1st June I’d only have been liable for the first 11 mins of the calls the thief made. Because I’m deaf and couldn’t get anyone to telephone for me until the next afternoon I’m being billed for the lot.
    I did email, it was the only method of communication left open to me. What else can a deaf person do? It’s very upsetting that this form of notification was disregarded and I feel I’m being penalised for my disability.

Virgin replied with:

    On behalf of Virgin Mobile, we would like to offer our sincerest apologies for the disappointing and frustrating levels of service you feel we’ve offered you.

    Having looked into this for you, we can advise the information previously given about being unable to refund you, is correct.

    We do advise once an email has been sent to us, we usually respond within 24 hours and it can take up to 48 hours for us to get back to you. We’re happy to help and suspend the account as soon as we receive notification.

    During this time delay we can’t be held responsible or liable for the phone being used within this time.

    If you need to contact us urgently in the future we suggest:

    * Anybody can give us call on your behalf, as long as they know your mobile number, even if they don’t know your security details we can suspend your number straight away.

    * If you do need to speak to us you can register online with http://www.typetalk.org.

    TypeTalk is especially designed for deaf, hard of hearing and speech–impaired customers and is available from most UK telephone networks.

    We really appreciate your thoughts and feedback so we’ve sent your email to our dedicated team who takes on ideas like yours.

    Virgin Mobile

Are they being discriminatory……..?

Taken from Virgin’s mobile site :

I’ve lost my phone, what should I do?
We’ll help you sort things out. Here’s what to do next:

1. Contact us immediately on 0845 6000 789.
We’ll need some details from you so that we can bar all calls from your mobile phone and it’ll be much quicker if we speak to you by phone. Make sure you have your IMEI number handy when you call – that’s the 15 digit number or serial number for your phone which is listed on the side of your phone box, we’ll need this to help us blacklist your phone. If you have insurance with us, we’ll make sure a claim form is sent to you straight away and advise you what to do next.

2. Report the theft to the police.
You’ll need to do this within 24 hours of your phone being stolen. They’ll give you a crime reference number – you’ll need this to complete your claim form if you’re insured.

Nothing mentioned about Typetalk there. So, yes, they are discriminating.

If Virgin can have someone monitoring and responding to phone calls, why can’t they have someone monitoring and responding to emails? The phone system is an automated response system, surely they can have an automated email system too? Virgin could have a dedicated email address for people with hearing loss to report lost phones. With an online account, you could go online and cancel your account facility in the event of your phone being stolen. Twenty four hours plus is too long for Virgin to take note of Brian’s email. Many calls can be made in that time! And how is a deaf person supposed to contact the police?

It’s no good Virgin telling customers about Typetalk AFTER their phone has been stolen. Not all deaf people use Typetalk or think they need to use because of the prevalence of mobile technology. Plus, how many people have their phone stolen while they are at HOME? Exactly. You can’t take a standard Typetalk phone out with you. And what if you are on holiday, even abroad?

Brian complained again. He sent them a brief e-mail on 17 June saying he didn’t like being patronised with their information on Typetalk – did they really think a deaf person wouldn’t know about it. He also pointed out that not everyone has this facility.

Virgin replied to Brian with :

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for your email to Virgin Mobile letting us know how frustrated you feel about the problems you’ve experienced communicating with us.

    We’re very sad to hear that you feel we’re discriminating against deaf people or any other of our customers who are unable to make calls. This is certainly not our intention.

    We’d like you to know we’ve have taken on board your comments and these have been passed to our Central Communications department who’ll be able to look into whether there’s anything we can introduce that would be more efficient.

    We have teams of Customer Advisors answering emails and calls 24 hours a day and the response time is always dependant on the number of calls and emails we receive and the number of agents we have available to answer them.

    As you’re aware, from the previous email we’ve sent , as soon as we’re notified about a stolen phone, we’ll take on the responsibility for the call charges.

    Thank you for accepting our apology for the earlier email we sent passing on information about Typetalk. We can see how this appeared patronising to someone who is familiar with the service, however we never like to assume that our customers are aware of a service and will always try to pass on any information that may be of help.

    We’re sincere with our apologies to you for all the difficulties you’ve experienced and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank you again for taking the time to write to us and include all the comments from the deaf forum.

    Virgin Mobile

“We’d like you to know we’ve have taken on board your comments and these have been passed to our Central Communications department who’ll be able to look into whether there’s anything we can introduce that would be more efficient”

It doesn’t take a genius does it – a special email address specifically for reporting theft, which dings a bell or flashes a light or slaps someone across the face with a wet haddock as soon as someone posts so that it can be acted upon. Why don’t Virgin just ASK its’ deaf customers, we are the user group after all!

Brian received another communication from Virgin on 21 June:

    Hi Brian,

    We’re writing to you today with an update for you regarding your suggestion about the way we offer our services to our customers.

    Following on from your emails in to us, we’ve been discussing this with people from our Web Team and also our Senior Management Team to discuss a suitable way we can improve our services for not only deaf and hard of hearing customers, but for people with other disabilities that may find it difficult to contact us by phone.

    Please be assured that this is something that we take very seriously here at Virgin Mobile and we’d like to thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    Virgin Mobile

Incensed at Virgin’s treatment of Brian, his friend Charlie emailed them and got this reply :

    Hi there,

    Your message has reached the team at Virgin Mobile.

    Thanks for taking the time to write to us. We’ll look into the details and get back to you as quickly as we can. It normally takes us less than 48 hours to reply.

    If your enquiry is urgent, or if your phone’s been lost or stolen, please call our team on 0845 6000 789. We’re open 24 hours a day and we’re here to help.

    While you won’t be able to reply to this email, if you need to write to us again you can send an email to theteam@virginmobile.com

    Kind regards,
    The Virgin Mobile team
    For any additional information, please visit our online help centre

Charlie then got another reply :

    Hi Charlie,

    Thanks for your reply to our previous email.

    We understand that you’re very frustrated about this situation.

    Although we can’t go into too many details about Brian’s account we can assure you the situation that arose concerning the theft of his phone has now been resolved.

    Following on from the emails we’ve received, we’ve been discussing this with people from our Web Team and also our Senior Management Team to discuss a suitable way we can improve our services for not only deaf and hard of hearing customers, but for people with other disabilities that may find it difficult to contact us by phone.

    Please be assured that this is something that we take very seriously here at Virgin Mobile. We’re not trying to make life difficult and we’re really sorry if we’ve made you feel this way.

    If there’s anything else we can help you with, just reply to this email.

    Kind regards,

    Kelly Brimble
    Virgin Mobile

So, it seems Virgin are starting to take this issue quite seriously. With the explosion of iPod usage these days, they should do! In twenty years time they will have a whole generation of customers that can’t hear.

But …… the situation still wasn’t resolved. They credited £10 to Brian’s new account as a “gesture of goodwill”. Seeing as he had just got a text bundle of 100 texts (£10) before his phone was stolen and still had 76 texts remaining, this credit only replaces the texts he lost, not the bill the thief rang up. So yes, a load of old flannel. Brian still felt it was important that they do something positive for deaf and hard of hearing people to enable them to make emergency contact.

Isn’t it interesting to note that Virgin’s response to Charlie is, almost word for word, the same as one of Brian’s. Is this what they call disability awareness training or customer services training?! Bog standard reply, they’ve just changed a word here and there, probably to provide variety for themselves!

Charlie was so cross (but not surprised really), that he fired off a very rude and angry response, telling them what crap their ‘solution’ was, that nothing less than a full refund of the thief’s call charges was acceptable. He thinks we should use people power as a group and use the forums to spread the word about their appalling activity. Yes it is good (if it is true) that they are looking into this, but Brian is surely not the first deaf person to have had a problem contacting them… it makes you cross enough to spit.

Brian got an e-mail from Virgin on the 4 September and he quotes the relevant section:

    We’re pleased to let you know we’ve traced account and we’ll be writing off outstanding balance that relates to (my old number). A refund will be credited to your new account.

    Following your feedback, we’ve created a new way of contacting us. We know some customers may find it easier to write, rather than call. So we’ve set up a 24 hour dedicated email address to help you. It’s accessforall@virginmobile.com

Result!!!!

About time!!

He emailed them on this email address and got a prompt response. They also texted him to say they’d e-mailed him! And yes, they DID phone …… they must have realised their error when he didn’t answer because the text came hot on the heels of the “missed” call.

It took over three months for Brian to get this result, with the added pressure from Charlie. They are delighted that Virgin rose to the challenge so let’s give them recognition as deserved.

CLAP CLAP CLAP

What is your experience of mobile phone service providers?

Paul uses O2 and they are pretty hot on their service to deaf customers. He was astonished when one of their customer advisors contacted him by email after taking time to google BAHA and finding the BAHA site. She wanted to ask which phone is best for a customer who has a BAHA, as they hadn’t come across this before.

I have used T-Mobile and they are very good, they will communicate by email and are prompt, helpful and polite.

If you get a poor service from mobile phone service providers, you could also try getting in contact with the official ombudsman.

…. now to get the AA to knuckle under for Charlie……. watch this space!

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6 responses

9 09 2007
Jim Tobias

Thanks for this great story — it is so typical of customer service situations. I think the best approach is to make our purchasing decisions based on the company’s attitude towards us. If communicate in advance with all the companies we do business with, telling them what our needs are, mentioning any gaps we see, then they have no excuse, plus we are doing some really good, detailed advocacy.

I’m in the US, and we have exactly the same kinds of experiences. We have some laws and regulations about this situation, but they are not well enough enforced. Come visit a website that supports new laws to improve the situation: http://www.coataccess.org.

9 09 2007
Fintan

looking at picture before reading post …Gasp!!! A Debian laptop !!!!

Perhaps he might interested in Deaf Lug
https://mailman.lug.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/deaf-lug

oh by the way I will read the post now 😛

9 09 2007
Advocacy Pays! A Tale of Advocacy with Mobile Phone Company « ReunifyGally

[…] Although most service providers still haven’t caught on that it’s smarter to anticipate accessibility issues BEFORE they arise, some of them DO listen when problems are brought to their attention after the fact. Read about one situation that happened recently in England–and read all the way to the bottom to see the results: https://funnyoldlife.wordpress.com/2007/09/09/long-live-unreasonable-people/ […]

10 09 2007
Fintan

I tend to go for mobile companys that have a shop.
Walk in and demand that the issue resolved and you wont leave the shop.

I never had any problem with O2 and the shop is brilliant for letting testing out phones before buying them.
I am in need of a new phone so gawd help them when I walk in 🙂

3 11 2007
BEST Auto Insurance quotes for YOUR state. — DWI insurance injurie car accident

[…] when he got home to notify them of the loss but could barely hear the answerphone, source: Long live unreasonable people, I look so I can […]

29 12 2010
Liz

I wonder if they have improved their service even better since all this. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have not. I’m with T-mobile with my mobile phone too, and like you I agree how good they are when it comes to communicating with them, which is why I have stayed with them all these years. If I was in that situation, my only way of contacting them would be email, as it stands at the moment.

As for virgin. I use them for home broadband only, but a few months ago out of curiosity, with my hearing levels getting worse. I thought I’d contact them, and query about their landline. What it would cost, and whether I’d get a discount like BT do, should I decide to use typetalk. I never heard a thing. So I know I shall be looking elsewhere, when my contact ends with what I currently have with them, if that’s what I mean to them.

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