Posted by Lutz Schüler, Virgin Media's Chief Executive Officer
Meet the Virgin Media people helping the country to stay connected
6 April 2020
With a network covering more than half of the country and millions of customers relying on their Virgin Media services more than they ever have, the coronavirus pandemic has really highlighted the hard work and dedication of our incredible people all across the business.
Government has classified many of our people as ‘key workers’ because of the essential work they carry out to run, maintain and build our network – a critical piece of UK infrastructure. Whether they’re answering phone calls from customers to help solve issues, expanding and maintaining our network to give more people better connectivity, or out on the ground fixing problems, right across the country Virgin Media teams are working day and night to keep the country connected.
Some of these people, like Denny, are based in our contact centres and have been working tirelessly to keep some of the most vulnerable people connected. While working back-to-back 12 hour shifts last week, Denny helped an NHS nurse and her disabled partner get back online after their services went down. With the customer in a vulnerable position, Denny was able to arrange a same-day engineer visit to fix their services, something the customer described as a “massive relief” in an email she sent to thank him.
Others, like Lee, work out in the field. Last week, he was alerted to an elderly old customer in St Helens whose phone and broadband had stopped working, leaving her isolated from the outside world. The customer’s children are frontline NHS workers so could not visit her, and she was understandably worried she could not contact help if she fell ill. Lee immediately went out to visit the customer and was able to fix her services there and then, ensuring she was safe and could call for help should she need it.
Similarly, when Curtis, one of our network engineers, was flagged down while working on another job, he was happy to help a 99 year old customer with an emergency care alarm whose phone line had stopped working. The customer praised Curtis for waiting with her while she tested the emergency alarm was working and for being so approachable when she asked him for help.
Meanwhile, Darren, a network planner, helped connect a 91 year old after his local pastor requested assistance, while countless engineers have been praised by our customers for finding ways to keep their distance while working in and around customers’ homes. In Antim, Northern Ireland, local residents have even left tea and biscuits out in the street and applauded our teams as they work to connect their properties!
Connecting public services and businesses
Our people have played a huge role in ensuring that we keep our public sector and business customers connected. We have upgraded equipment in hospitals to boost capacity so that patients can keep in touch with friends and family via video calls while in isolation, and our engineering teams have worked through the night to push through critical upgrades so police and ambulance services can continue to work remotely. We’ve even been out installing new fibre optic cables in rapid time for another mobile company after they asked us to help when one of their cables was accidentally damaged. This issue could have caused major disruption to a number of services but our teams worked flat out to get everything fixed.
With many small businesses not properly set-up for remote working, our teams are working to support those customers that are trying to move their operations online and keep their business running. Last week, Nick took a call from Vicky, a Physiotherapist and Pilates instructor who was no longer able to visit her clients and was trying to work remotely. She was trying to carry out consultations and classes using video conference software, but her connection wasn’t up to the job, leaving her unable to continue working. We were able to upgrade Jenny’s services and offer advice on how to best use video conference software – a simple step in itself but one which means she will be able to keep her business running.
Our teams have helped to respond to the coronavirus response in unexpected and wonderful ways. Over the past week alone, our teams have boosted the connectivity of leading scientists that are modelling the spread of the virus to inform government policy; rushed to connect an NHS doctor who was seeing patients remotely; connected up homeless shelters so those with no home to go to can keep in touch with loved ones; created protective visors for NHS staff using a 3D printer; and used our vans to deliver essential supplies to the NHS. One lucky technician even received a much in-demand toilet roll from a customer as a thank you for their speedy work to get services running again.
With many of our people continuing to go to work, it’s important to remember that we are doing this because we provide essential services to people up and down the country. Our people are keeping the NHS connected, keeping emergency services’ phones ringing, giving homes access to information, entertainment and a lifeline to the outside world and helping businesses move their operations online.
While many of our people are simply doing their day jobs, these jobs are making a huge difference to us all. I’m enormously proud that, together, we’re helping the country to stay connected.
Some of the Virgin Media people going the extra mile for our customers
Darren Chatfield is a Data Rep at Virgin Media. His job is to try and help customers that want to join Virgin Media but who don’t currently have a Virgin Media connection in their home. Darren looks at the existing network to find ways to connect the customer’s property, working with teams across the business to make this happen.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, Darren has been inundated with requests to connect people across the south of England, with many of those people being elderly and vulnerable.
Last week, Darren received a request from a local pastor to provide broadband to a 91 year old gentleman who was living alone. Darren immediately contacted the customer operations team and within the hour, they’d spoken to the customer and made arrangements to get him connected.
The pastor who originally called up praised Darren, saying: “Darren helped out a 91 year old existing Virgin Media customer at a time of great need. He was friendly and polite. I particularly appreciate Darren’s help given the pressures you’re all under.”
Talking about the customer, Darren said “By working as one team, we’re able to all do our small part and keep customers connected during this difficult time. It’s the least we can do.”
Nick Kirwin is a small and home office account specialist who works to help Virgin Media Business customers with their services.
Last week, Nick took a call from Vicky, a Physiotherapist and Pilates instructor who was no longer able to visit her clients and had to work remotely. She had been trying to do consultations and classes using video conference software, but her connection wasn’t up to the job, leaving her unable to continue working.
Nick explained how moving to a package with faster upload speed would enable Vicky to reliably use video conference software. He was also able to arrange an upgrade to a new iPhone, with a better camera to support those video consultations and classes.
Vicky, who can now work remotely, described Nick as “my rock in a time of crisis” and added “I was panicking about having to take my business online without having the right package. I am now set up to manage my business online and feel safe now, where I felt incredibly vulnerable before.”
Nick commented: “Helping people is just what we do. I always try to be straight up and explain things in everyday language, to help customers work out what they need. It was a genuine pleasure to help Vicky.”
Denny Smith works in customer services, helping customers with everything from solving faults, adding services or finding ways to help manage bills.
Since the coronavirus pandemic started, staff like Denny have been exceptionally busy. Last week, Denny worked back-to-back 12 hour shifts answering customer calls - prioritising vulnerable customers or anyone with a total loss of service.
Denny’s work has been commended by Jenny, a customer whose services had stopped working. Getting her back online was particularly important because Jenny’s husband was disabled and has had to isolate himself as he’s at high risk from Covid-19. With no services whatsoever, he had been cut off from the world.
After Jenny – a NHS nurse – reported the problem, Denny tried to help over the phone in a call lasting 90 minutes, but after trying everything he arranged for an engineer to be sent out. Denny was able to pull forward the appointment and get someone out the same day who was able to fix the services.
In a message sent in to Virgin Media to thank Denny, Jenny said: “It is a massive relief. Thank you so much for understanding the necessity and urgency. I can't tell you how much we appreciate it. You made my day.”
Denny said: “We might just be answering the phone, but we are making a huge impact by getting people back on track and communicating again. It’s a team effort, but for customers like Jenny, we just can’t let them wait so I’ll do everything in my power to get them help.”