Carbonite - Carbonite Customer Service Disaster

Posted on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 3:02pm CST by Peter B.

Product: computer back-up service

Company: Carbonite

Location: 177 Huntington Avenue
BOSTON, MA, 02115, US


Category: Computers, Software

Danger: Think carefully before signing up for this service. It appears to be a great service. Affordable, easy to install, automatic remote back-up. However, if you have a problem that requires technical support, be prepared to commit to a full day and lots of aggravation and long long times listening to lousy music.

If and when you get through customer service (typically more than 20 minutes on hold), you speak with a Tier I technician. They can guide you through a reinstallation of the Carbonite program but that's about it. Anything more technical requires that you get transferred to Tier II. Apparently the staffing for Tier II is quite limited (based on the inadequate hold times). When you are placed on hold, you will not receive any information about how long your hold time might be. While this technology exists and is used in many call centers, Carbonite probably doesn't use it because it would demonstrate just how poor their customer service actually is.

If you try to connect to their corporate headquarters in Boston, you'll find that the entire phone sytemn prevents you from speaking with anyone. This is probably due to the fact that they have so many irate customers and that the company couldn't care less about their customers' experiences.



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Business Reply  Rob F., 2013-12-18, 11:24PM CST

Peter, your experience is definitely regrettable and not one Carbonite is looking to deliver to our customers. Please accept my apology for the frustration you experienced. We are staffing up aggressively in order to reduce wait times during our peak periods, this should have a major impact on our ability to consistently answer your calls within a very brief period of time. we are increasing our staff by 25% from Nov-Dec and are committed to delivering a world class experience to our Customers.

Typically our Customers enjoy very successful Technical support from us, based on surveys they have completed. Per these surveys, Carbonite Customer Care achieves nearly 75% VERY SATISFIED (85-90% overall satisfied) ratings for customers who contact our support. For software technical support this is considered excellent. While I understand you can take no solace in the success of other customers, it is important that your outlying experience be understood as such. Peter, if you would like to speak with me please feel free to contact me at any time. I am interested in learning more about your experience so we can better ourselves.

Rob Frost

Vice President

Carbonite Customer Care


Peter B., 2013-12-19, 01:15AM CST

Carbonite - It Gets A Lot Worse:

I would like to thank Mr Frost for his comment and offer for me to contact him. After more problems and spending more time during the last week on the phone with Carbonite, I was planning to write the President of the company.

When you buy Carbonite you are basically buying their all-the-time, automatic back-up of your important files for a set annual fee. No muss, no fuss. Carbonite automatically pick the important files that need backing-up.

While that's what Carbonite sells, that's not what their the deal really is, as stated in the fine print. Unfortunately, most subscribers aren't sufficiently computer savvy to understand the limitations that it spells out in the fine print, nor are they aware of the undisclosed policies detailed below.

As stated above, I recently had problems getting the Carbonite back-up to work. I've been a customer for almost three years and up until recently, I didn't have problems. After I realized that the Carbonite system was not completing the back-up, I called Carbonite's customer support team.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've called them a number of times -- I've lost count. As stated above, the response times were poor and it doesn't offer the most basic call handling technologies such letting callers know where they stand in the phone call queue or approximately how long they may have to wait (a long time). The first tier people are pleasant but don't appear to be adequately trained. Getting to the second tier (more experienced) folks is a real battle, and you should plan to spend a long time on hold to get to one of them. As it turns out, these are the least of your potential problems as a Carbonite customer.

Despite numerous calls and incident numbers which they provided to me, their support team wasn't able to fix the problem. Despite these numerous calls and all the time I spent on hold, a lot of time on hold, the Carbonite system still doesn't work, and some of my files are still not backed-up.

As it turns out, after all this nonsense, during the last call, the customer support technician (Jacob) revealed to me that the likely reason that Carbonite is not working is because (according to the fine print somewhere on their website) if the amount of your file storage exceeds a certain amount, Carbonite will automatically "THROTTLE DOWN" (reduce the quantity of files) that can be backed up each day. The effect of this policy is that if you've been away for a two or three weeks (as I was), when you return, the size of the files to be backed up will exceed the THROTTLE limit. Then when you return and use your computer, the daily back-up requirements from new emails will put you even further behind. As a result, from that point forward, it's quite possible, such as in my case, that Carbonite will never, ever, be able to complete a back-up. Here is a shout-out to Jacob for telling me the truth.


1. When Carbonite "THROTTLES DOWN" your back-up so that its system doesn't complete its work, Carbonite doesn't tell you. It assumes that you are a computer expert and read all the fine print on their website -- all of it, and that it is up to the customer to figure it out. Ask yourself, shouldn't a customer reasonably expect a vendor like Carbonite, which is performing a critical task, to advise you when the vendor degrades its service so that it doesn't work? Not Carbonite. Somehow Carbonite believes that customers should be able to know that the answer to their problem lies within the fine print located on their website.

2. When a Carbonite customer calls technical support to try and figure out what's wrong, they never tell you that the reason is because of their "THROTTLE DOWN" policy. They don't tell you that your file storage exceeds their magic number. In each of my many calls to Carbonite's technical support group, I gave them access to my computer to look at the files, to see what was backing up, to see the size and number of files being backed-up, etc. Despite the fact that each technician knew the size of my back-up, it was only the last technician that I spoke to who let it slip that my back-up was being throttled down. It's hard to believe that so many first and second tier technical support people could look at he workings of my computer and not figure it out. So why keep it a secret and keep frustrating the customer?

3. The Carbonite system doesn't automatically advise customers when it is not completing the back-up. If a customer doesn't take the time to regularly check if the back-up is complete, you may never learn until after a hard-drive crash, that Carbonite didn't work. You snooze - you lose. Not Carbonite's fault. Not Carbonite's responsibility to advise a customer of the problem.

4. Carbonite offers an automatic service (that most customers probably select) which eliminates the need for people to figure out what to back-up. So you rely on Carbonite to select what's important and what isn't. But when your files exceed their arbitrary limit, it doesn't offer any recommendations about what to deselect from being automatically backed up. For instance, I discovered that my important files were not being backed-up partly because it was automatically backing up my trash, deleted and spam email files. But that's not Carbonite's problem. As a customer, it's up to you to figure it out. If you can't, tough luck. Not Carbonite's problem.


If you don't consider yourself enough of a computer expert to be able to go through the hundreds or thousands of folders on your hard drive and decide what's important and what isn't, then seek other back-up vendors. Carbonite doesn't feel it has any obligation to warn its customers when its system is not really working (completing the back-up). In the end, they promote themselves with a message that's similar to Allstae -- you're in good hands... with Carbonite, because it's easy and automatic. The truth is that the company is not forthright with its customers. In my book, this is right up there with "If you like your health insurance policy, you can keep it. The only thing that will go down is your premium."

My computer has been on for about a month since I returned from my trip, but since my return, it has never been fully backed-up. Currently, I still have 15.90 GB to back up so it appears that my back-up will never be complete. I guess it's time to search for another back-up service.

Peter B., 2013-12-19, 02:05AM CST

A Postscript to My Last Message:

During my last call to Carbonite, during which I spoke to Jacob, I asked if, since my back-up was behind, could they un-throttle my account until my computer back-up got caught up. Jacob advised that Carbonite's policy absolutely does not allow them to un-throttle the back-up so your computer can catch up. That's corporate policy. Period. No exceptions. Nada! If you get behind, you're just out of luck.

To my mind, it appears to be a crazy business policy. Carbonite seems to be a company with a recurring-revenue business model, which is a very desirable thing since it reduces the volatility of their top line numbers. It's earning its revenue every month, even though it's getting its yearly (or in my case, 3 year payment) upfront.

Since remote back-ups are a 'sticky' service where customers are unlikely to move for a cheaper competitive product due to the hassle of changing, why in the world would a company have a policy that forces customers to go to your competitors? The recurring cost of satisfying a customer is probably negligible and storage grows less and less expensive with time. So why have a policy that causes a customer to have to leave? This seems like ... cutting off your nose despite yourself...


If you receive lot's of emails every day, and if you upload your camera pictures onto your computer after taking a vacation, (as I did), don't even think about turning off your computer while you're away. The backing-up that would have occurred during the time you're away can never be made up and with the throttle limit, you back-up will never be able to catch up. Then you'll have to find another service, because you'll be OUT OF LUCK WITH CARBONITE!


Don't rely on the customer email surveys that are automatically sent out after customers call in for technical support. I say this for two reasons:

1. Customers that are angry for having to wait so long on hold aren't really going to spend even more time to tell you about it. They've already used up all their available free time.

2. Since Carbonite can tell if their customers' computers are or are not fully backed up, why bother to ask if they are satisfied with the service. If your customers figure out what's going on, trust me, they will not be happy.

Finally, if you really care about whether your customers are satisfied with the technical support, why not do follow ups with the customers who are having trouble, to make sure that the back-up problems are fixed?

Peter B., 2013-12-19, 03:12PM CST

Carbonite Customer Service - Theatre of the Absurd:

As you can see from Carbonite's response above on 12/18, Mr. Rob Frost (you have to wonder if that' his real name) apologized for my problems and quoted some internal customer satisfaction statistics to suggest that all is well. He also wrote "We are staffing up aggressively to reduce wait times..." which suggests that Carbonite does have answering quality problems. But at this point there's no point in quibbling about how well they answer the phone... But wait -- it gets worse.

I took Mr. Frost's offer to call him, and this morning I called him around 11 AM his time. When I dialed the number which he provided above, I heard a menu of options and selected the option to dial him by his name. So I entered his name and believe it or not, the phone directory has no number for Carbonite's VP of Customer Care. So I called back a few more times. When I selected the choice to speak to an operator...wait for it...that's right, there was no operator; the Carbonite phone system hangs up. So I tried again, and asked for customer service. After another hold, I eventually spoke to Alysia. I explained the Mr. Frost had posted the message above inviting me to call but that the phone system wouldn't allow me to connect with his extension. She said she was sorry but the customer service team couldn't connect me with the VP of Customer Care, despite his invitation.

So I asked Alysia to send an email to Mr. Rob Frost asking that he call me. I gave her my cell number and asked him to please call. During the writing of this post, I received another call from Carbonite, from a very pleasant lady named Lee. She advised that Mr. Frost (apparently there is a Mr. Frost at Carbonite) asked her to call me back. Why he didn't have the time or inclination to speak with me is unknown, but maybe one shouldn't completely believe what Carbonite writes. Lee did say that the company may be changing its policy about throttling the back ups but only for newer customers -- an "infrastructure issue? But that suggests that if you've been a long standing customer maybe you don't count as much as a new customer. She said that Carbonite may be able to start me over as a new customer. I'll keep this post updated to let prospective users know what happens.

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