Home > Business, Cost Reduction, Process Improvement, Support > Norton’s $140 Free Support

Norton’s $140 Free Support

One of my client’s computers recently got infected by several viruses.  She attempted to solve the problem by installing Norton Antivirus 2010.  After the instillation, her computer would not allow her to logon, so she gave me a call.  After doing some research, being unable to solve the problem, which was likely caused by the instillation of Norton Antivirus, I called Norton to receive the “Free Support” that came with the software.   The phone support reminded me of my recent post on foreign call centers; Norton’s support was unbelievable and unacceptable.  Explaining my interactions with Norton’s support team will illustrate how Norton’s “low cost” foreign call centers destroy consumer trust, damage Norton’s brand, and ultimately reduced the company’s profitability.

Before I elaborate on Norton’s phone support, I want to point you to how I solved the problem.  You can see the solution on how to fix a logon logoff loop on a previous post of mine.

I would also like to give a brief history of Norton Antivirus. Historically, Norton Antivirus has received extremely poor reviews because of its intense PC resource consumption, and inability to be completely removed from a user’s computer system.  Recently, Norton has been making great strides in reducing the products resource requirements and marketing it as such.  It has been quite some time since I have personally used Symantec’s Norton software; before the following fiasco, I perceived the Norton and Symantec brands as mostly neutral.  Let’s see how Norton’s call center impacted my perception of Norton’s brand.

When I arrived at my client’s location, she was completely beside herself.  My client was about to go on vacation, and her POS (Point of Sale) system was out of commission.  I tried for about an hour to solve the problem on my own to no avail. The box the antivirus software came in mentioned that it came with “Free 24/7 chat, E-Mail, and phone support”, so I figured I would give that a shot.

When I called, I was first connected to a Norton call center in the Philippines.  Before getting to the actual support, I had to give the Norton agent some personal information so she could create a customer profile for me.  I usually find it quite easy to tell someone my name and phone number.  This was not the case with Norton; I was barely able to communicate with the Norton representative I was on the phone with.  I spent five minutes spelling my name and giving her my phone number.  I am not an exaggerating.  If it was difficult to give my phone number, I could only imagine the quality of support I was about to receive.

After describing the problem, and going through some basic trouble shooting steps, the representative said she was unable to solve the problem.  I asked for their second level of support, the support based in the United States. As she began her response, I came to realize they were attempting to up-sell me.

I was embarrassed for the Norton representative as she began her sales pitch; I could tell she was reading from a script.  She told me that the second tier of support was based in the United States and normally cost $170.  But since I was a “valued customer,” they would give me a $30 discount.  So much for the “Free” support claims on their packaging.  I agreed to pay the $140, as I knew this was the only way I could reach someone that understood English.  I also knew that could get a refund, or if not, dispute the charge with the credit card issuer.

Prior to connecting with the second level of support I was asked to go to “Norton.com/link” in my browser.  Early in the support call, I told the agent I was using a second computer that had access to the internet, and it was not the computer I needed the support on.  With that understood, I figured this page would be used for some purpose other than remotely controlling my computer.

I spent another five minutes communicating my E-Mail address.  I was laughing in my head the whole time.  I assumed Norton’s support would be poor, not painful.  Norton’s support was painful.

The Norton representative then spent more time then necessary explaining how I would be entering my credit card information into an automated phone system.  When she finally transferred me to the automated system, I looked at my phone, and realized I had spent 30 minutes talking to her; 10 minutes of which was communicating my name, phone number, and E-Mail address.   I entered the requested information into the automated system with relative ease and was transferred to tier two support.

I got to the second level of support after a brief time on hold.  As the conversation started, I noticed the second representative had a stronger accent than the initial agent I spoke with. I inquired about her location, and she said she was in India.  I distinctly remember being told I would be talking to the second level of support, in the United States.

As I was talking to the second female agent, I was asked to confirm the information in my customer profile.  It turns out my E-mail address was incorrect.  I guess the five minutes I spent giving it to the first agent was not enough.  I had to go through the process once more; add five more minutes to the phone call for simple data entry.

After verifying my information, I was asked to go to the “Norton.com/link” page I had open in my browser.  The Norton representative said she was going to remotely control my computer.  I expressed, again, this was not the computer with the problem.

We discussed the problem once again. She reviewed a few pages of her resources with me; all of which I had already tried with no success.  Once her resources were exhausted, she said she was unable to assist any further and that she would refund what I had paid for the support.

After the interactions with Norton, I did some more research on the internet.  And, as I mentioned in the beginning, I did finally fix the Windows XP Logon Logoff loop.  Not only is it likely Norton Antivirus caused the problem in the first place, their support provided zero assistance solving the problem.  What Norton did do, however, was impact their brand quite negatively.  Norton’s “low cost” foreign call centers damaged the trust I had in Norton, damaged Norton’s brand, and ultimately cost the company money.  Let me elaborate a bit on each of these claims


My trust in Norton’s brand has now been damaged.  Norton’s packaging says “Free Phone Support” and I did not get that.  Instead, Norton required I purchase their advanced support to get any relevant help.   If one portion of the packaging was untrue, were other parts untrue?  Is Norton Antivirus actually effective at preventing infections? It is hard to trust one claim on a package if a second claim is proven false.

Second, I was told I would reach American based technical support if I paid their advanced support fee.  When I was transferred to that second level of support, I reached someone in India.

Impact on Brand

Besides losing consumer’s trust, Norton also proved they can’t effectively communicate. Either Norton’s foreign call centers are staffed with employees that can’t understand English well, or the call centers are built using poor quality telephony equipment. Why would anyone do business with a company that can’t spell “Ed” or understand a 10 digit number?  Statistically, from my interactions with two of Norton’s employees, in two different countries, 100% of Norton’s employees can’t communicate.  I realize that that is quite a poor population size, but it is all I have to go by; it is the only point of contact I have with Norton.

The Numbers

A few months ago my interactions with RCN inspired me to write an essay on how low cost call centers are inherently expensive.  My experiences with Norton prove my theory once again.  I spent roughly an hour and a half on the phone with Norton Support.  The call accomplished no positive outcome.  However, many resources were used during the conversation.

  • Norton authorized a $140 credit card purchase, which likely cost Norton $3.
  • I talked to two different support agents, at $10 an hour, that cost Norton $15.
  • Norton consumed 90 toll-free minutes.

The call, which cost Norton nearly $20 financially speaking, was not the only cost to Norton.  The damage to Norton’s brand, caused by the poor quality foreign support and false advertising, carries an even larger cost, although it’s tough to say exactly what that cost is.

Even with the sale of the software, it would be tough to conclude Norton made any profit.  Norton only received a fraction of the revenue generated from the purchase of the software, which retailed for $40.  And it is likely that the software will be returned.

Here is the kicker: The foreign call centers may actually impact Best Buy more than Norton.  Best Buy does not allow opened software to be returned; it is against their return policy. It is unfortunate for Best Buy that Norton’s packaging included false advertising.  The customer, my client, did not receive what she had paid for; free phone support.  Therefore, it is safe to assume any credit card disputes would end in favor of my client.

I believe a credit card charge-back, or “dispute”, would cost an estimated $25, regardless if the dispute ends in the retailers favor or not.  Furthermore, credit card charge-backs are an administrative nightmare for any company.

At minimum, if Best Buy accepted the return, Best Buy would incur the cost of processing the initial sale, the refund, and the cost of employing someone to process both transactions. Total minimum cost would be roughly $3.30.  However, if they won’t allow the product to be returned, Best Buy would incur a charge-back fee from the credit card processor, regardless if they were found accountable or not, which would add $25 plus any administrative labor cost.  The total cost would be well over $30 after all is said and done.  That is well above the margin from the initial sale.  Furthermore, if the dispute ended in the customer’s favor, Best Buy would be out the $40 as well; totaling $70.

Norton’s “low cost” call centers have impacted both Norton and Best Buy quite negatively.  Norton has lost consumer trust.  Norton has badly damaged its brand.  And both Norton and Best Buy have incurred, or will incur, significant financial losses.  When will multinational corporations begin to see the damage caused by poor quality and low cost call centers?  It astonishes me that this trend continues.  Even as I was writing this essay, a friend of mine was complaining about HP’s foreign support as he tried to get his printer installed.  Ironically, he recently consulted on a project to outsource a portion of a company’s workforce to the Philippines.

  1. Charlie Hayes
    January 10, 2010 at 11:36 PM

    You didn’t even mention the sub-standard detection level that Norton AV has. It’s funny the support costs over three times as much as the product itself. The fact that the support was needed on install speaks quite a lot about the quality of the software. I feel really bad for anyone conned into buying any Symantec product.

  2. Esteemed Norton customer
    July 17, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Hi, Well you might have been frustrated with the experience you had, but what’s described over here is half true.

    I am not sure if you are aware or not, but Norton just like any other AV company charges for Virus Removal Service, unless you do it on your own and they give you the instructions,(which is again impossible)

    Ya, the reps in Phillipines are awefull, but if you see the background, these are poor people, look at their economy, Atleast you are doing some good by speaking with them, they have a job at the end of the day.

    When the technician said she was transferring you to a US Rep, she should have been honest, Norton does not have Virus Support Supervisors in US, its only in India.

    when they transfer you to the other level after charging you, your call may land in Phillipines, India or Canada , sometimes Australia as well rarely.

    Its true Norton doesn’t spend enough on training their people effectively, so I guess its not the fault of the people you are speaking with, but the cororation that is not investing effectively on the people.

    Anyways I personally dont feel Norton is a good AV program and I prefer Avast, free and better performing than paid softwares.

    When you call Norton, it depends on your luck, who you get on the call.

    • July 17, 2010 at 4:33 PM

      What are you saying is half true? I do understand that the reps in the Philippines are paid low wages. Are yous saying that since they have a job, I should be OK with paying them for any level of service? As you said, Norton does not spend enough on training. Unfortunately, that decision has reduced the quality of their product to a point where it is not worth buying or even using for free. I’ll stick with Microsoft Security Essentials.

  3. Larry Mayfield
    February 19, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    I also paid $140 for free Norton Support. Got a virus within one month of installing Norton 360. Five days later i was infected again. Was told that the $140 included 7 days of warranty. Tried to call back and get free warranty help. After speaking to someone I was put on hold indefinitely. Great service Norton. I’m done with these guys.

  1. January 8, 2010 at 10:36 PM

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