Not only did Virgin Media bill their deceased customer, they fined him for missing payments. The letter was sent out automatically and the way in which the letter was phrased was alleged to have insulted the relatives of the deceased customer just as much as the fine itself. Since the error, Virgin Media have tackled the problem head on and ensured that all of their bills are rephrased to prevent similar mistakes occurring in the future.
For large companies, social media can be both a blessing and a curse. In this case, social media led to Virgin Media’s mistakes being projected into the public domain, causing outrage across the UK and disappointment for the huge brand which competes to offer the best broadband service. The bill of £63.89, complete with a late fine of £10 was received by the deceased customer’s son-in-law, Jim Boyden, who proceeded to photograph the letter and post it on Facebook, along with his own personal response to Virgin Media. The photograph of the letter went viral, shared by Facebook users more than 50,000 times. Virgin Media responded to the post by making a public apology the following day, in an attempt to re-establish themselves as one of the best broadband service providers in the UK.
Although this is by no means the first time a large company has sent out a bill to a deceased customer, the way in which this letter went viral was a huge test for Virgin Media and their ability to handle tricky customer service issues. Social media offers the opportunity for companies to redeem themselves, if public interaction with the customer is handled in the correct manner. The key to effectively dealing with sensitive, public issues such as this is to remain honest as a company and hold up your hands to any mistakes made, whilst offering a resolution.
Competing with Virgin Media to offer the best broadband service is marker leader BT, who revealed that around 40 per cent of their customer feedback comes through social networking site Twitter, meaning that any negative feedback is in the public eye. BT has identified this as an opportunity to publicly deal with adversity swiftly and efficiently, aiming to improve their reputation rather than tarnish it.