Virgin Media’s Mishap Goes Viral

By · Filed in Reputation Management

Jim Boyden opened a bill from Virgin Media addressed to his recently deceased father-in-law. The bill showed a £63.89 charge along with a note stating “D.D Denied – Payer deceased” and, because the direct debit had been denied, the bill also included a late payment charge of £10.

After repeated, unsatisfactory calls to Virgin Media attempting to close the account, on 22nd April, Jim chose to post a photo of the bill, along with a public message to Virgin Media, onto his Facebook profile. Over the next couple of days, it went viral! When I checked yesterday, 98,162 people had shared Jim’s message and photo with their Facebook friends.

On 24th April, Virgin Media announced a deal with Sky Sports. This is a really important deal for Virgin Media and should have dominated the day. However, it was completely eclipsed by Jim’s bill.

By 25th April, Virgin Media had publicly and privately apologised, cancelled the bill and made a donation to the hospital where Jim’s father-in-law had been cared for. Jim and his family used Facebook to publicly thank them for resolving the problem.

Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of people have seen the bill and read Jim’s message. Some of these people may choose not to use Virgin Media at some point in the future.

There are a few lessons that all business owners, large or small, should take from this:

  1. People will be talking about you and your business! Put systems in place to find and alert you to these messages.
  2. Things can happen fast! Monitor on a daily basis and have a plan in place for how you will quickly respond to a problem. Virgin Media could have stopped this from ever becoming a problem when handling Jim’s phone calls. But even if they missed that, when Jim first posted the bill on Facebook (and placed a link to it onto the Virgin Media Facebook page) Virgin Media did not respond. One day later, Jim re-posted it and it had started to gain momentum. By then, it was too late for Virgin Media to hold back the flood.
  3. Apologise! We all make mistakes and most of the time, all people are looking for is the business to say “I’m sorry”. So apologise and explain what you are going to do to put things right. Jim said “We weren’t doing it for revenge; we just wanted to be heard.” Virgin Media did a good job of saying “sorry” and Jim Boyden thanked them for their response. The managed to take a lot of the sting out of this problem.
  4. Never retaliate! It doesn’t matter if this was “the client from Hell”. They are probably not going to read your response but many new clients and prospects may read it. Respond with them in mind.
  5. Always respond! It is good to respond to all messages posted about you or your business and it is vital to respond to all “negative” messages. People infer that you don’t care or that you completely agree with the feedback if you ignore it. Responding to negative feedback is a fabulous opportunity to explain what you do care about. Also, everybody knows that problems happen everywhere from time to time. Your response to the negative feedback will demonstrate to future prospects that if they are unlucky and something were to go wrong, you will go out of your way to fix it. In this way, negative feedback can be more valuable than no feedback (as long as not all your feedback is negative!)
  6. Encourage the good messages too! More people will share and spread “negative” messages than “positive” messages. Jim’s was an extreme example with nearly 100,000 people choosing to spread the message. Swing the balance back in your favour by actively encouraging your best clients to spread the message about how great you are.

With the continued growth in our lives going online and the easy, global access that we have these days, reputation management to monitor your online reputation, grow your positive feedback and manage your negative feedback is becoming essential to every business. If you need some help with this then you may be interested in the special offer that we have for readers of our Working Dogs Roundup on our reputation management services. It is for this month only and you can learn more here: Reputation Management May 2013 Special Offer

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