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UPC customers are now Virgin Media customers - so will our remote controls work now?

Their CEO says they will. But what else will the UPC rebrand mean for existing customers?

.  Richard Branson- founded Source: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

BROADBAND AND TV merchants UPC Ireland are no more – in that they’ve rebranded themselves as Virgin Media.

Yes, Richard Branson’s enormous empire has taken a foothold on these shores once more, for the first time since the closure of the various Virgin Megastores here (something he told us we can hold iTunes responsible for).

The rebranding was the subject of a typical Bransonian launch this morning at the RDS in Dublin, with the bearded billionaire entering on an enormous 16-wheeler truck (which apparently will be touring the country in the weeks to come), before taking on UPC Ireland CEO Magnus Ternsjö in a buzzer-style quiz (that probably sounded better on paper), and then picking up and kissing a slightly-terrified looking Sinéad Kennedy.

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9724 Richard Branson Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

9903 Richard Branson Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The man knows how to make an entrance.

But what will the rebrand mean for existing customers?

Going Mobile

Well as is standard with these things existing UPC customers don’t have to do anything, at least not initially – overnight they have become de facto Virgin Media customers

UPC has not been especially convincing in its dealings with customers in recent times – in fact along with the now-rebranded Eircom and Irish Water they were listed among Ireland’s least-favourite brands in a recent survey. Not that you would know that from attending the launch this morning.

So the rebrand (or ‘transformation’ as Branson and Ternsjö repeatedly told us) makes logical sense from the point of view of making the company a little more customer-friendly. What else will change though?

The company is going to be entering the Irish mobile market for the first time from this Monday 5 October. If you’re an existing customer you’ll be offered three months of unlimited mobile broadband (which lapses into a contract thereafter for €25 a month).

The mobile offering will be come in tandem with home broadband and tv, so it could simplify billing matters from that point of view.

Virgin Media will be writing to all home and business customers of UPC Ireland next week to let them know its plans, while you can expect an extensive marketing campaign titled ‘Here Comes The Magic’ to be all over your various screens for the foreseeable future.

And… aside from that details are a little sketchy to say the least.

Briefing

At a press briefing following the launch Branson was in full cheerleader mode for the merger.

“We’re joining a fantastic team, and we’re looking forward to working with them,” he said.

This is more than a name change, it’s a literal transformation. We’re going to make this service world class, a real world beater.

.  Richard Branson- founded Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Branson said that Virgin’s experimentation with helping NTL Telewest out of a mire in the UK has set them up to enter the Irish market.

We made that work and now we’re ready to come and do the same in Ireland.

Regarding further possible Virgin expansion here he said: “we’ve been here before with the megastores, which iTunes put paid to. I’m sure we’ll have further Irish enterprises in the future”.

When asked the question “why change to Virgin?” Ternsjö gave an especially diplomatic answer.

“Why not change to Virgin? I’ve been in Ireland long enough that I’ve learned to answer a question with another question.”

They consistently change the game for their customers.

Regarding the issue of Ireland’s scratchy rural broadband service Ternsjö would only say that UPC/Virgin are respondents to the government’s current discussion paper on broadband expansion and that it’s “too early to go into”.

1/10/2015. UPC Changes To Virgin Richard Branson and Magnus Ternsjö Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Remote Controls

TheJournal.ie decided to chance its arm and bring up a particular bugbear of ours – UPC remote controls being generally not fit for purpose – and this afternoon we managed to grab CEO Ternsjö for a quick conversation on just that.

When we suggested to him that UPC remotes are extremely temperamental and, well, prone to breaking (and that when they do break you have to pay to replace them), he replied that this isn’t an issue he’s aware of.

“You can be sure that it will be Virgin Media’s responsibility to make them work, and you can also be sure that they will do so,” he said.

Well, that sounds encouraging. But what about UPC’s slightly scratchy record on customer service?

“Virgin is an iconic brand that brings the best in customer service,” he said.

Up to now perhaps we have not been at a level we want to be at, and we don’t think we’re in a bad position.
This is a transformation, not a rebrand, We’re going to work very, very hard on improving these things.
We’ve always been very competitive, but from today our existing customers, not just the new ones, will be getting the best deal.

So, basically it’s not entirely clear what is going to change. What is clear is that Virgin Media have no interest in being disliked. And you would hope that that can only mean good news for customers.

Read: Richard Branson rode in on a massive truck and picked up one of our women

Read: Eircom has been replaced with this squiggle

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