Virgin Mobile Jolted Into Action By Executive E-Mail Carpet Bomb

Nancy tells Consumerist that she and her husband recently bought shiny new phones from Virgin Mobile, and were quite happy with their service. Well, until Nancy’s phone stopped working entirely. She tried the normal technical support channels, but encountered a run-around that lasted for almost two weeks. Two weeks during which Nancy lacked a functioning phone. She gave up on the normal channels, read our guide to sending an executive e-mail carpet bomb, and sent us a copy of her original missive.

(Note: She did not include the addresses she sent the letter to.)

Dear Virgin Mobile Executives,

When I heard about your new phone plans, I was very excited. This was exactly the kind of cell phone plan I had wanted for years. I preordered phones for my husband and I as soon as they were available on 5/12.
I activated my phone on 6/4 and I was very happy with my service until June 25th when my phone mysteriously stopped sending or receiving text messages and I could not place or receive phone calls.

6/25 – I called customer service and they said my phone and text services were inactive and they would activate it and my phone would function within 4 hours. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

6/26 – Called in and I was told that in the Sprint system my phone number was expired so the cell towers would not recognize my phone number. A ticket was put in for me and I called to check on it on 6/28 and 6/30.

6/30 – I was told the ticket was escalated.

7/2 – I called in and I was told to call technical services directly. They sent my problem to a network engineer and I was assured this would be fixed in 24 hours. It was not.

7/6 – I called the technical service line again and the person I spoke to could not fix my problem. They sent a ticket to a higher department.

I have been without use of my cell phone for 12 days now. Can my problem be escalated to someone that can fix it? I have spent hours with the customer services reps and they have not been able to fix my problem. The best solution they could offer was to change my phone number. That is unacceptable to me. This number is my main form of contact and I should not have to change it with every person or company I have ever interacted with because of a system issue with Sprint/Virgin Mobile.
I have already invested over $500 in phones and top up cards to become a Virgin Mobile customer. Won’t you help me stay a Virgin Mobile customer?

I look forward to your reply. I am available at:
Email: *****
Address: ******
******
Home phone: ******
Work phone: ******

My Virgin Mobile Phone #: *******
My Virgin Mobile Pin #: *******

Respectfully,
Nancy

The next day, Nancy wrote us back with an update.

I got a voicemail from [redacted], an executive care agent, at 7AM PST. I called her back on her cell phone at 9AM PST and she returned my call shortly before 10AM PST. She said it was a system backend issue that was also affecting other customers. A team of technical experts are working on manually rebuilding the affected accounts and she sent an email this morning to have my account put to the top of the list. Hopefully my account will work by end of today but she said she would give me another call by end of business to let me know what happened.

Twelve hours after that, she sent another update:

I got a call back from [redacted] around 3pm and she said it would be fixed by the end of today. I reprogrammed and activated my phone just now and it functions again! They also gave me a $50 credit for my trouble. I’m delighted to say the least! Virgin Mobile executive care solved my issue in less than 24 hours.

A great, and swift, answer to Nancy’s original brief and informative EECB. Great work, it’s wonderful to see that our methods worked.

Comments

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  1. GuJiaXian says:

    That was one of the better (i.e., brief) executive letters that’s been featured on Consumerist in some time. Kudos for writing a concise, polite letter and receiving a good solution (that you shouldn’t have had to ask for, but that’s another matter entirely).

    • axhandler1 says:

      This. Short, polite, lays out a timeline nicely, and voila! Her problem is fixed in 24 hours. That’s the way to do it people. If it becomes necessary (which it really shouldn’t).

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        You mean a giant paragraph, that is poorly written, sarcastic, doesn’t use punctuation, and jumps between topics isn’t the way to go?

        • jimmyhl says:

          It’s been tried already. See the letter published in today’s Consumerist from the Gamestop customer. It looks like one of those puzzles in the newspaper where you try to find words written in a grid of letter going backward and diagonally. He needs to game less and find the space bar.

        • jimmyhl says:

          It’s been tried already. See the letter published in today’s Consumerist from the Gamestop customer. It looks like one of those puzzles in the newspaper where you try to find words written in a grid of letter going backward and diagonally. He needs to game less and find the space bar.

  2. edison234 says:

    I guess Sprint has taken over the customer service department.

    • Conformist138 says:

      Before Sprint merged with Nextel, nextel had decent customer service (via phone, at least, where I worked). When the merger happened, suddenly we were obeying Sprint and doing it their way. I cried when I had to call a Sprint call center for a customer and was told the wait would be 45min. Nextel customer service slid downhill and into the grave. No matter what else is said about Sprint, they just plain suck at understanding the needs of both customers and phone reps, yet they always want it to be done their way. The departments are confused, rep training is as specific as possible (you mean training one person to do lots of things is nicer than blowing up transfer rates? hmm, who’da guessed), and their method of motivation involves setting nearly impossible sales goals for reps hired for tech or billing troubleshooting. Apparently, they think causing minimum wage peons to fear for their jobs each and every day is a great way to maximize employee effort. Within months of Sprint swallowing Nextel without even chewing, I left.

  3. Riroon13 says:

    Out of curiosity, does Virgin Mobile still have U.S.-based call centers?

    About two-three years ago I needed a good pay-as-you-go phone; I hated Tracfone and the like for their phones that would never work without 10 calls to the Phillipines/ India/ etc.

    I wrote to Virgin Mobile asking about their customer service. I received an e-mail reply that afternoon, bragging that all four of their call centers were based in the U.S.

    After being coaxed (i.e. suckered) into getting a ‘real’ contract phone by my family, I can’t tell you actually how much I miss Virgin Mobile.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      The issue about outsourcing formerly US-based jobs aside, people harp on the call centers not being based in the US (I don’t know whether Virgin Mobile’s are), but my only requirements are that you speak English clearly and that you resolve my problem. I don’t care if you’re in India (though now that I’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire, I can’t help but think that’s what all call centers look like), if you speak clearly and can solve my problem, I’m happy.

      • Link_Shinigami says:

        A lot are outsourcing. T-Mobile is apparently outing everything but business care to non-native english places. Now, this doesn’t mean they fail. For example, Guatemalan reps that are also spanish to english translators, they know what they are saying and are generally really good, but the ones that aren’t registered as translators? They will make you cry. And they are the new customer care it seems.

        I know this for a fact that T-Mo still has some english call centers. They have in-house gen and business care (Never call business because you want to try and get an english rep, they will drop you within the first 45seconds of the call) as well as some out sourced business/activations/number transfer centers that are english (Some even in Canada).

        More headaches came from the non-english reps than anything else when I worked for them. They’d completely misunderstand the situation or try and quote, verbatim, parts of policy that weren’t what was going on and then break the customers account or give them the transfer run around… Flex Care reps speak no english what so ever and are the worst cases… We used to call them the escalation queue because their supervisors/people that took escalations had a wait time of around 15-30 minutes every time, and they’d be the ones breaking the accounts then trying to get other departments to fix it, and then they’d disconnect the call and force you to go back through them and pray you didn’t get a “new” person who felt it was your job and then hang up instead of escalating like you requested.

      • NewsMuncher says:

        Yes. I’ve had calls where the service rep’s American regional accent was so thick I couldn’t understand them. And I’m an American.

    • Belle says:

      This is the original complaint writer. From the numerous call center experiences these past two weeks, there are call center(s) in the Philippines, in South America and at least one in the US. I’ve gotten a perfect American accent but I didn’t confirm if they were in the US. The technical services line is US based from the people I spoke to.

      Everybody I spoke to was perfectly understandable. I didn’t ask them to repeat anything so I personally did not mind where they were based.

      • consumer says:

        I have talked to many of their call centers, they would not reveal their location but I did detect a latin accent.

        Belle what address did you contact them at?

        I have been having an ongoing problem for over a month now, calls to tech support always end with them unable to escalate the problem… it does not appear to be the agents fault… but the process which they have to follow.

    • mharris127 says:

      As a Tracfone customer, I understand your feelings about calling reps that can barely speak English and not know their butt from their head (so to speak). However, I have a solution. Tracfone/Net10 has an Executive Resolutions department for the tough things like transferring a phone number to a new phone (which their Columbian CS said couldn’t be done but ER was able to do without much problem) or dealing with a new phone that does not work. The number is 1-800-876-5753. They are open between 8am and 5pm EST. Please don’t abuse this number by calling it for every little thing, I would hate for them to disconnect it and leave me in a tough spot next time I need serious help with my phone.

  4. sirwired says:

    Attn: Potential complaint writers!

    This note should be the very model of an EECB.

    Note how it is short and to the point. It states how the consumer is real satisfied with the product except for [insert problem here]…

    It does not include sarcasm, insults, snarky remarks, or poor attempts at humor.

    The EECB was sent after attempts to resolve the issue through normal channels was unsuccessful. No special treatment is being requested; just somebody to fix the services that Virgin is failing to provide.

    There is no irrelevant sob story about how the OPs life has been ruined through lack of access to a cell phone.

    There are no threats to go to the BBB/AG/Media/Consumerist.

    THIS is how you get a good response to an EECB.

  5. Paul Schreiber says:

    Who/what email addresses did she send this to?

  6. medfordite says:

    A bit off topic, but she could go acquire a Google Voice number, and forward it to her cell phone and other phone(s). Instead of giving her cell phone number out, give the Google Voice number out to everyone instead. Then the logic follows:

    If cell phone craps out again, she still can receive calls on her other line(s).

    • Belle says:

      I thought about that but I was afraid that if ported my number, I would lose all the money I had in my prepaid account.

  7. jimmyhl says:

    Kudos to the OP–the letter belongs in The Consumerist’s template EECB file.

    Now–on to the broader question: Should the astute consumer stick with a company whose CS has been so poor that an EECB became necessary?

    On the one hand, in any EECB success story, the company has–ultimately–provided a satisfactory remedy for its customer. Which is the good part.

    On the other hand, a textbook EECB scenario always involves a lot of frustration and investment of personal time, i.e.,long phone holds, being fobbed off to other departments, broken promises, escalation, re-escalation, de-escalation, repeated and ‘creative’ denials of accountability and, most obviously, the customer’s inability to use the product he or she has already paid for. That is the bad part.

    Maybe you can already guess which side of the fence I am on. Like most of us who post at The Consumerist, I have my own EECB war stories (Radio Shack, Best Buy, United Airlines, to name a few) and I have in all cases stopped doing business with them even if the end result was satisfactory. If a company cannot routinely provide timely, meaningful CS to address recurrent foreseeable service issues without step-by-step instructions from an executive whose normal responsibilities lie outside the company’s CS ‘loop’, that company has lost my confidence.

    Obviously (and unfortunately in my opinion) the consumer does not always have this prerogative because of early termination penalties, contract terms, the legal impossibility of ‘firing’ your mortgagee, etc. But, other things being equal, why stick with a company that can’t get it right the first time, or the second time or even the third time, and comes to life only after a fire-breathing executive from corporate weighs in?

    Maybe this issue could be a poll question.

    Congrats to the OP.

    • Randell says:

      Interesting you expect perfection from companies you do business with. I hope no person who works for you has ever made a mistake, or that you have NEVER made a mistake in your job, so that your boss could end your business relationship.
      People need to understand things can not be perfect in life. Not every conceivable issue can be accounted for. Based on the number of EECB’s you say you have already used, it seems these companies are probably better off not having a PITA customer like you.

    • Belle says:

      This is the OP. I want to give them a second chance. If this was something that consistently happened, I would definitely switch to another provider. But the plan is, like I said, perfect for me. Any comparable plan is at least twice as much if not three times.

      • jimmyhl says:

        I guess a lot depends on how you define ‘second chance.’ I’m glad you got a good result and I hope your decision to give them a second chance works out. By my reckoning you gave them three second chances.

      • jimmyhl says:

        One more thing and then I’ll let this go. Promise.

        To me, there are two aspects of this CS interaction that speak poorly for Virgin regardless of the outcome:
        (1) you were the only one making the calls. When Virgin knew (as it did at least two separate points in your 12-day timeline) that the problem was not fixed, it was their business to call you, not the other way around. ‘Taking It Seriously’ after a CS call is received means taking initiative, even if that means delivering bad news.

        (2) Their reps either didn’t know what they were talking about or they didn’t care and they told you anyway. They promised this, they promised that, they promised the other thing, but still couldn’t get the phone up after twelve days. I don’t mean they lied, I just mean that they consistently misinformed you.

        • Belle says:

          I’m counting this as a second chance/single incident. Though it would’ve been nice if the first level CSRs did call me back, I did not expect it. I’ve never had a customer service line be that good. Taking my business would punish them but it would’ve cost me quite a bit in phones and top up cards I could no longer use. My hope is to never have a problem again so I can use my account happily. Let me also state that my husband’s account has had zero problems from day 1. My experience is most likely an anomaly.

  8. Weekilter says:

    To have your phone not working for 12 days is totally unacceptable.

  9. xstuntpilots says:

    See, all I had to do to get a free month of cell service out of Virgin Mobile was twitter angrily, insulting their lineage and mental capacity.

    An actual legitimate US-based native-English-speaking customer service rep contacted me personally, fixed the problem my phone was having, and put enough money in my account to cover a free month and a few ringtones.

    Social networking ftw.

  10. TheMonkeyKing says:

    I used to have Virgin mobile. It was my first cellphone. However, when my party animal (mobile phone model) died, I began having problems with their company. Upgrading to a new phone while trying to keep my pay-as-you-go account was too much for them to handle. I could never add time or access my acount within the new phone. After sending me three new (free) mobiles and them adding $100 to my account, they then realized their software programming couldn’t adjust to a new phone with an old plan. I tried canceling it several times but they could not close the account for my different reasons. I eventually let it die of neglect; I canceled the credit card assigned to my account. I know now my old number has been reassigned.

  11. KSD says:

    Nice letter. I sent one, did not get a reply. I’ve never been rude, I don’t believe in yelling at that poor agent on the phone, however, I’ve been hung up on, told it was my issue, told they could do nothing until the billing department was open, told to top up so my phone would work out of my pocket, etc. I’ve spent in excess of 10 hours on the phone with them over the last month because they did a system upgrade and they were having issues with my area code working properly, causing it to bill per minute instead of my plan working. I’ve been told by them all “rest assured that it’s been escalated to the highest level.” Apparently their highest level is on an extended coffee break.
    Up until now, I would have said they were awesome to deal with, BUT, a company’s true test is how they handle a problem…They have failed miserably. We’re getting a new carrier !