Blathering Vaguely About “Compensation” Will Get You Nowhere With Customer Service

Eric was incredibly frustrated with his mobile provider, Virgin. His service was spotty, and his smartphone overheated to the point that he became nervous and turned it off. He sought help from the Virgin Mobile Angels, because that’s what angels do. Isn’t it?

Neither his phone nor the local towers were working all that well, so he wanted replacements of both to make up for the months of frustration. “[O]ut of the 11 months this year I have had 7 months of mediocre Sprint coverage,” he wrote to the social media angels. “Service is not as good as it used to be as it has gone from decent to mediocre for this year.”

Eventually, Virgin had an answer for him. “After reviewing the address provided, I was able to locate 5 Network Vision upgrades currenlty [sic] taking place in your area. The completition [sic] dates have yet to be provided,” one Angel wrote back. Well, that was helpful.

The problem we noticed was that in his very long correspondence with Virgin, he complained about his phone and about the service, but left it open-ended. He didn’t explain what he wanted Virgin to do about the situation, only vaguely hinting at “compensation” for his trouble.

This is a bad idea in both consumer interactions and in interpersonal relationships, though the latter is fodder for a whole other blog entirely. From our point of view, Eric was complaining about the towers under upgrade in his area, his toasty phone, and how terrible his service was. Okay. But what did he want that was directly under the social media customer service reps’ control? They can’t crack whips and make the towers upgrade faster.

We asked Eric what he wanted, and told him to spell it out for the Virgin Mobile reps. That’s the key part: don’t wait for the company to make an offer. In some cases, blathering on about unspecified “compensation” makes it sound like you’re going to sue.

Eric wanted six months of service credits to make up for the inconvenience, to continue his $40/month grandfathered plan, and also a Samsung Galaxy III. He assumed that his phone was overheating because of the terrible reception, and made him overlook technical problem with his handset while it was still in warranty.

Eric and Virgin are still hashing this out, but this is still an important lesson. If you want something, start somewhere. The worst thing a company can do is offer you less. The last we heard, Virgin’s offer was replacement of his current model phone and that six months’ service that he asked for.