I’ve recently got a new Xperia X10 Android phone for my with with Virgin mobile, it’s generally been working OK although I am having some issues , I’ll write another blog post soon about other problems I’ve discovered with the phone and how I’ve solved some of the previous ones.
I upgraded my wife’s phone first because I can’t be without Nagios SMS messages if things don’t work. So now that things are generally working I want to get myself an Xperia through Virgin (and have my wife’s phone get the Nagios SMS in the mean-time). But since last Friday the entire Virgin sales infrastructure has apparently been down. It started with just declining my attempts to purchase a new phone on a separate account, but when I decided to add a second phone to my wife’s account the web site told me that they are upgrading their CRM system and it should be fixed on the 22nd of Feb (yesterday). The web site is now saying that I should “check back in 2 hours for an update“, it’s been saying that for a couple of days now.
So for most of a week potential Virgin customers have been turned away. It could be that Virgin stores are processing sales on paper, but they offer some significant discounts for web sales – the plan I want is a $39 per month plan and I’ll get 3 months free for buying on the web. I’m not about to visit a store and lose $117! I’m sure that many people are losing confidence in Virgin and taking their business elsewhere. I have only just installed the “3G Watchdog” free Android app that monitors bandwidth use and automatically turns off 3G when the quota is reached. For the first few days of using the phone which were more data intensive than usual I had no monitoring and no way of using the Virgin web site to discover how much was used. If Virgin bill me extra for data use I’ll complain and demand that they alter the bill.
This is even worse for pre-paid customers who can’t add credit to their account while this happens!
Virgin state that they are “upgrading the hardware, operating system and database our platform uses to ensure that we can service our Members even better for years to come” . I wonder how people get themselves into such a mess. I guess they didn’t have a decent test environment to allow testing the upgrade process before doing it on the live data, I can understand a routine small upgrade going wrong and corrupting data in a way that takes some time to resolve. But when everything is upgraded then everything should be tested, and tested before going live! One thing that Virgin could do to regain some credibility is to publish what went wrong and what they learned from it. I would be much more happy to trust my personal data and my business critical phone to a company that learns from it’s mistakes and publishes plans on how they do better than one that just does PR.
According to Whirlpool they did the same thing on the 25th of January, so they have had two outages of their billing/CRM system in two months! . The Whirlpool thread has discussion about last month’s down-time and this month’s down-time.
On the up-side, Whirlpool user Kevin JD is a Virgin representative who advised customers to send email to email@example.com with a contact phone number if they have any issues. It’s good to see a company engaging with it’s customers.
Update: An hour after emailing the URL to this post to Virgin I got a call from a service representative. It wasn’t a very productive call as I already knew that their servers are down and they can’t do anything. But it’s good to know that they are very enthusiastic about making things better. One useful thing that I learned is that my wife’s service is probably on a pro-rated bandwidth quota. As she got the phone in the middle of the month we can only do 100M of data transfer not 200M before the end of the month, by my rough calculations I’ve downloaded well over 50M of data (maybe as much as 100M) from the Android marketplace. So it might be necessary to negotiate about the bill as soon as their CRM system works.