Sunday, 17 March 2013

Virgin Mobile - contender for worst checkout ever

I've just signed up for a SIM-only phone deal from Virgin Mobile. By far the best deal on the market for my usage requirements and I already have Virgin Media for home phone, TV and Broadband. It's always been easy to transact with them online so I assumed I'd get the same well-thought-out treatment from Virgin Mobile.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. It's difficult to describe just how awful their signup process is. The first annoyance came from Live Chat. I'm generally a fan of text chat customer service (so long as the invitation button doesn't contain a stock image of someone wearing a headset). It's usually a better option than making a call, battling through inane options and then holding for a customer service rep. I can do other stuff at the same time and the CS staff can handle more than one chat at a time, so everyone wins.

But popping up a chat invitation incessantly, despite it being turned down every time? Why? Make it easy to request a chat and pop-up an invitation once if behaviour looks like the visitor is floundering. I had to close the chat invitation four times.

Next, the form itself. It's long and poorly laid out. It's not clear which fields are compulsory and which are optional. The password creation part is confusing, with the option to create two passwords. There are two sets of terms and conditions to agree to and there's an essay to read about privacy and opting in or out of marketing permissions.

Error highlighting is simply abysmal. This appears at the top of the page but the sections that are incomplete or do not fit the required format are poorly highlighted, such that you need to go through the entire form again to find out what's wrong.

In my case it turned out that my mother's maiden name was too short. Not enough letters in it for Virgin Mobile, so I had to make up an alternative. (I haven't said anything to her, it would only cause confusion.)

Having rewritten my maternal lineage and made it beyond the personal details page, I moved on to billing. Another mammoth page that again popped up an error message when I had finally completed it and tried to continue. After trawling through I eventually found my error.


My bad, as I believe the kids say these days. I had failed to spot that the expiry date on my card needed to be entered with the year in YYYY format. Which is, of course, quite sensible. Virgin couldn't possibly know that when I entered 13 in the year, I meant 2013. I could have been using my other card which expires in 2113.

And who wrote that error message? Clearly someone who considers spelling and punctuation to be optional extras. Other error messages are equally ridiculous, including one that gives the remedy as calling Virgin on 789 from your Virgin Mobile. Errr, I don't have one yet. Come on Virgin, sort this out. It's embarrassing.