User Experience - don't send me a bill before I've used your service

Long time readers will know I used to work in the mobile industry. I used to blog about all the crappy things that customers experienced. Well, I'm back, with a doozey!

I decided to sign a new contract with Virgin Mobile. After a brief chat with customer services, I agreed a contract for two new pay monthly SIMs and negotiated a handy discount.

I was told the SIMs would be sent out, and I could expect them in 3-5 days! That's the first mistake. We live in a world where people can buy the cheapest, most trivial items from Amazon and have them delivered the same day.

Indeed, if I go on to Amazon right now, there are a bunch of cheap SIMs I can order which will be in my sweaty hands before the sun sets.

List of SIMs available for same day delivery.

Even 3 days... Are they sending these out by 2nd class post? Am I a 2nd class customer? I want to give them money - I'm not expecting them to personally courier it to me. But next-day delivery is the minimum acceptable standard for most customers.

Two days after I placed the order - and with no sign of the SIMs - I received an email from Virgin.

It was my bill. For a service which I had not received.

What message does that send your customers? "Sorry we haven't delivered you anything. Please give us money!"

To make matters worse, the bill was dated from when I placed the order. Not from when my SIMs were expected to arrive. That means I'm paying for 5 days of service I simply can't use!

The kicker? The bill was wrong! It made no mention of the discount that I'd negotiated.

Is this the experience that you want your customers to have?

What happened next

Eventually, the SIMs arrived. I was already a Virgin Media customer, and got a good discount because I've got their cable Internet package. Despite that, I need to set up a brand new account just to manage my phone contracts.

If you're offering a multi-play service, it's important that it is a seamless experience for the user. I don't care that you're multiple trading entities with a bewildering array of backend systems. It's not my job to make life easier for you - it's your job to make life easier for me.

The sign-up process was the typical clusterfuck that you expect from old companies who can't afford to update their systems.

Signing up required a new password.
A screen with annoying password requirements.

What an annoying experience!

  • Can't paste in a password.
  • Maximum of 10 characters.
  • No special characters.
  • Must start with a letter!

What on Earth are those restrictions for? I kinda get the first three - although I disagree with them - but what system are they running which can't store a password which starts with a number?

The final icing of sick on this cake made of shit was the series of welcome emails that I got from Virgin Mobile.
A badly formatted email.
I have a bog standard Android running Gmail. Those emails are unreadable. This tells me that VM haven't tested their end-to-end journey. Or they tried it once on an old iPhone and it seemed to be fine.


I'm paying a tenner a month for two contracts. I am an extremely low-value customer.

But do I deserve to be treated like this? Should everyone be treated as though they were a precious and valued customer?

To be honest, I expect that the experience is identical for high-value customers.

Virgin Media have a long-standing problem with sending out well designed billing emails.

I'll put up with this because I'm paying an insignificant amount of money. And I'm only likely to stay until a better deal comes along. But this was an excellent exercise in how not to build brand loyalty.

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4 thoughts on “User Experience - don't send me a bill before I've used your service”

  1. Agree with all of this whether it happens
    However given that VM can't seem to give an answer to a basic question about their DNS after a month none of this surprises me unfortunately.
    Also worth noting that Virgin Money can't share online accounts between different account types

  2. We tried virgin mobile - other than the website/forms/emails not being the best, our pain point was lack of 4G 800 Mhz which resulted in far too many coverage gaps esp. indoors. Obviously YMMV


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