Thanks Virgin Mobile!

If there’s one thing the Internet seems made for – aside from porn, cute kitty pictures and fantasy football leagues – it’s complaining about bad customer service. And that’s not for nothing: if you spend enough time at The Consumerist, TripAdvisor or Elliot.org you’d think that most companies don’t just have bad customer service, they’re becoming downright hostile to customers these days.

But this isn’t one of those awful customer service stories. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of that, a story about great customer service. And it involves Virgin Mobile.

My parents gave me a Virgin Mobile Samsung Intercept phone for Christmas last year. Coming from Tracfone’s relatively ancient LG 600g handset, the Intercept seemed like magic. And for the first couple of weeks, it was! But then odd things started happening. The phone would lock up often, requiring me to remove the battery to restart. It would lose connectivity, apparently unable to gracefully switch between 3G and Wi-Fi. It would reboot for no good reason. Many of the stock apps (and parts of the OS itself!) would crash. Most worryingly, the phone would gradually slow down – not just in a given session, but overall, like a Windows computer loaded down with malware.

The phone shipped with Android 2.1, and Virgin Mobile promised that most of these issues would be fixed with the 2.2 (Froyo) update, which was due in February… then March… then April. I’m an IT guy, and I understand how software releases get delayed. So I was OK with that, but was getting tired of resetting (wiping) the phone every few weeks to make it usable. Wiping the phone was great for restoring performance, but every time I did so I’d lose my SMS messages and call logs, and then had to spend an hour or more reinstalling my apps and tweaking the phone (notification settings, sounds, etc.).  Anyway, the upgrade was finally made available in April, and I upgraded. And yes, a few things were fixed… but the phone was still slow and still locked up far too often.

By late May, I’d had enough. I emailed Virgin Mobile customer service explaining my issues. To their credit, they replied to my email within an hour, and had a replacement Intercept headed my way within 24 hours!

Sadly, this phone had all the same problems as my first phone. The first couple of weeks were fine, but the phone soon started locking up, crashing and slowing down. I started keeping a log file of all my problems with the phone, which soon grew to be quite lengthy.

By last Monday (08/08) I’d had enough (again). I emailed VM customer service and said that I wanted the phone replaced, but didn’t want another Intercept. I just wanted a phone that worked. I also attached the log file with all my problems.

I expected to go round and round with customer service… but Marcus from Virgin Mobile called me within an hour (amusingly, my phone had a horrible connection during the call).

Marcus said that he’d looked over the log file and agreed that I’d had a less than optimal experience with the Intercept. He said that they wanted to replace my phone, but since I’d had so many problems with the Intercept, I could choose another model. Of course, I wanted to stick with Android, so that left me with two options. The LG Optimus V got decent reviews, but I figured that the latest and greatest would be best: the Motorola Triumph.

Surprisingly, given how much of an upgrade the Triumph is over the Intercept, Marcus said that this was no problem, and he put me on hold for a moment to make sure that they had them in stock. They did, and Marcus said that the new phone should arrive in 2-3 business days! He also said that he’d comp me a month’s worth of free all service for my troubles! Awesome!

I’ve only had the phone for a few days now, but I’m cautiously optimistic. The Triumph is, so far, better than the Intercept in every possible way. Of course, the Intercept was fine for the first couple of weeks, too. But the Triumph has performed perfectly thus far, and has only crashed or rebooted four times, and that was directly because of poorly-written apps (hint: don’t try to play Flash videos in Firefox Mobile; not only is it not supported, it will make your phone reboot! Why would the Mobile version of FF not support Flash? Who knows?).

In any event, I’d just thank Marcus and the crew at Virgin Mobile for making such an annoying experience so pleasurable and for providing such hassle-free customer service. These days it’s so easy to go online and rant about some (real or perceived) customer service nightmare… but I found Virgin Mobile service to be absolutely top-notch!

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