Virgin

Virgin Mobile has crafted an image as a mobile carrier for budget-conscious millennials. It seems that a lot of those savings must come at the expense of support staff, as the carrier goes to great lengths to keep you from talking to a live person. Sometimes, that's all right, because Virgin's website provides just the answer you're looking for. But at other times, just tracking down basic information can prove frustrating.

We explored Virgin's website, the carrier's preferred method for providing support. But we also took to social media and tried Virgin's phone number to see just what kind of help the carrier's customers can expect. Althea Chang

Online Support (32/40)

Virgin Mobile makes it a point to direct its customers to the company's website for customer support. By going to the Support tab of the Virgin Mobile USA website, you can log in to check and change your service plan, pay your bill, monitor your data usage and get answers to questions about devices. (The carrier has information on more than 100 devices, from newer flagships to aging flip phones.) Virgin also has a series of FAQs that cover other aspects of its service, like explaining how its no-contract plans work as well as basic tasks like blocking a number.

Dig into Virgin's website, and you'll find step-by-step instructions with animated screenshots for the basics, like how to pair your phone with a Bluetooth device or install an application. Getting more-specific answers requires a bit more digging, and rather than hunting through Virgin's extensive device-support page, the search box on the top right side of each page provided a faster solution. I used it to find answers to questions such as how to manage the always-on display for a Galaxy S7.

MORE: Best Phone Carriers: How Virgin Stacks Up

Virgin once featured how-to videos on basic topics on its support site, but those videos seem to have vanished. Instead, the company is now more focused on pushing you into its online forums to find answers to questions. It feels like a step backward for the service.

Dig into Virgin's website, and you'll find step-by-step instructions with animated screenshots for the basics.

Another feature that's sorely lacking on Virgin Mobile's site is online chat. (This feature is also missing from Boost Mobile, which — like Virgin — is owned by Sprint.) Chat support helps users access the information they need quickly, and chances are the younger consumers who seem to be the company's focus will expect chat support when they go to Virgin Mobile's website. It's an odd omission that detracts from an otherwise helpful resource.

Social Media (7/10)

Virgin may not have an online-chat feature, but at least the carrier is responsive on Facebook. I went to the Virgin Mobile page on the social networking site to post a question about the Galaxy S7's always-on display option. Within 10 minutes, I got a response back asking which feature I wanted to set as always on. About 10 minutes after my reply, I got the detailed response I needed. Virgin's Facebook rep seemed friendly and thorough, offering step-by-step instructions, additional information related to my question and follow-up support.

MORE: How Virgin Fared in Our 4G Network Testing

Interacting with Virgin Mobile on Twitter was a bit more complicated. When we first contacted the company on Twitter about how to check data usage, we used the carrier's Twitter handle, @VirginMobileUSA. About 6 hours later, we got a response from @VirginMobileUSA asking us to send our question to a different handle, @VMUcare. A note in the @VirginMobileUSA bio directing customer-support tweets to @VMUcare might have saved us some time.

At least when I found the right Twitter account to contact, the company responded quickly. In 12 minutes, a rep responded with a detailed answer to my question.

Virgin Mobile's phone-support system seems to do whatever it can ahead of time to keep you from talking to a human being.

Phone Support (29/50)

Virgin Mobile's phone-support system seems to do whatever it can ahead of time to keep you from talking to a human being. You're greeted by a recording that suggests you first check the Virgin website and use the site's forum to answer questions. But from what we saw, the forums seemed to include mostly specific complaints where posters were instructed to contact Virgin for further help.

Note that if you’re troubleshooting your phone or just want to figure out how to use your device, the My Account app on your Virgin phone features a support screen in addition to menu options for checking usage, managing your plan and adding money to your account. There's also a link in the app for calling Virgin Mobile support directly.

Average Call Time: 15 minutes

If you stay on the line for phone support, a recording will then suggest you take the battery out of your phone and put it back in, saying that doing this may solve many problems you're experiencing.

Get past all of that, and you're greeted by a phone tree offering several options for topics that you could be calling about. You may just want to speak with a human being, though, which you can do between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET on weekdays and between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET on weekends. But you can't just press "0" or say "operator" to do so, as some companies' automated systems allow. I had to guess which options would lead to a human being, and that was ultimately the "troubleshooting" option.

MORE: How Virgin's Phone Plans Stack Up

Calling on a weekday at 2:01 p.m. ET, I finally reached a phone representative based in the Philippines. The phone connection was spotty, and there seemed to be some details lost in translation. I did get an answer on my question about checking data usage on the phone, though I was told, incorrectly, that I could see only the latest month's total. In fact, I could see data from prior months as well. That call took 6 minutes.

A late-night call at 9:32 p.m. ET on a weekday connected us with another rep in the Philippines. When I asked what apps I could use for music streaming that wouldn't count against my data plan, she sifted through her resources and named several, including Pandora, Slacker and Napster.

Getting more handset-specific help proved difficult over the phone, especially compared to using Virgin's web resources. During a weekday afternoon, I spent nearly half an hour on the phone trying to get instructions on how to turn on the Galaxy S7's always-on display.

First, a rep in the Philippines took several minutes to search through her resources to find an answer. When she couldn't, she forwarded me to a tech-support representative based in Mexico. The phone connection became worse, with the call cutting in and out enough that I needed to repeat myself more than once. Ultimately, after sifting through a 302-page manual, the rep in Mexico said he couldn't find precise instructions and suggested that I search YouTube for an answer or call Samsung.

Bottom Line

If you need simple answers to straightforward questions, Virgin Mobile's website is easily your best bet, and you can track down some more advanced questions about devices, too. The company's social media accounts are responsive, which should appeal to the carrier's millennial target. This is good since Virgin's phone support should be avoided as much as possible

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