Users angry at Symantec's lack of support

Users are flocking to Symantec's public message board to complain about problems downloading the company's antivirus software.

Users are flocking to Symantec's public message board to complain about problems downloading the company's antivirus software.

Symantec develops virus protection software, including Norton Anti-Virus software, for consumers and corporations.

According to one user, the problem has existed for at least the past nine days.

"There has been [a more than an eight]-day snafu at Symantec where consumers have bought and paid for various software packages and have not been able to download them. When they try to get assistance, they get no help, the phones are constantly busy and the few who have received e-mails have been given wrong information," the user says in an email to Computerworld US.

The user says angry customers were writing in to Symantec's public help message board asking for assistance in downloading the software they had purchased.

The majority of messages at the site from December 18 to the present were related to problems downloading Symantec software and the lack of help available to customers from Symantec or its commerce service provider Digital River.

Minneapolis-based Digital River powers Symantec's online retail store, ShopSymantec, and is responsible for support relating to the purchase and downloading of Symantec's software products.

Until January 3, however, Beyond.com in Santa Clara, California, was Symantec's customer service provider. But Symantec never alerted its customers to the change, so as late as Sunday, customers were trying to contact Beyond.com for help and weren't getting responses.

According to Todd Frostad, senior director of business development at Digital River, the recent problems stem from the switch of customer services between the two companies.

"We hoped to make this as seamless as possible," says Chris Monnette, senior director of global services at Symantec. "We are aware of the issues, and Digital River is very much on top of them. They said they've seen a drop off in the number of calls in the last few days."

Frostad says the problems that led to the onslaught of customer criticism at Symantec's online help site had less to do with people not being able to download the software and more to do with the fact that they were unable to get the help they needed.

"People always have problems downloading software, maybe it's their modem problem, or a problem with their [internet service provider]," he says. "But they can usually get through [to a customer service representative] to get help. But because of the transition, we had an enormous volume of calls that led to long hold times [and busy signals]."

Frostad said last week that callers may have been on hold for as long as 30 minutes - which, he said, was unacceptable. Since then, the wait times have dropped to between 10 and 12 minutes, which is still unacceptable, he says.

"We've added staff and are working to get the hold times down to an acceptable one or two minutes," he says.

Frostad was quick to add that his company didn't have any server problems since the transition.

But William Malik, an analyst at Gartner Group in Stamford, Connecticut, says he would be reluctant to blame the user population in general for the problems they experienced downloading Symantec's software. He believes there was a spike in demand that caused Digital River's server to slow down, or fail.

"You don't normally experience that amount of disruption in service. I think Digital River and Symantec underestimated the number of people who would be downloading the software during the holiday season, and they just didn't have enough capacity to handle the volume," Malik says. "I wouldn't blame the ISP because I haven't heard about this happening [with any other company]. Why only this vendor and [customer service provider]?"

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