Google needs to rethink its customer service strategy

Google needs to rethink its customer service strategy

Summary: One beef I've had for quite a while now is Google's noticeable lack of commitment to personal support for people using their products and services. A good example would be businesses that use the free version of Google Apps -- good luck trying to get in touch with someone about your problem.

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One beef I've had for quite a while now is Google's noticeable lack of commitment to personal support for people using their products and services. A good example would be businesses that use the free version of Google Apps -- good luck trying to get in touch with someone about your problem. Even the premium version which includes some technical support is useless when you have a non "How do I?" problem that requires real assistance.

It doesn't stop at just Google Apps though -- it's impossible to get real customer service from Google for anything. You get lost in automated responses and forums that are filled with people having the same problems with no answers most of the time. In my opinion, you cannot rely on a users-helping-users model if you want happy users. There has to be a way to get in touch with a real person at any time.

The sheer number of people using Google services would require a massive support team, but that's why I find the news on the Inside AdWords blog about Website Optimizer service plans somewhat interesting. Google should experiment with ways like this to give users real technical support while keeping the costs associated with having their own support team down.

The Website Optimizer service plans cost a bit of money, but it's better than having no real support at all.

  1. $250/hour: Designed for specific questions and quick answers. Maximum 1 call per hour. No commitment, no obligation.
  2. $600/3hours (in increments of 30 min): Designed for more complex issues at discounted hourly rates. Must be used within 6 months after first hour of service is used.
  3. $1,200/8hours (in increments of 30 min): Purchase this plan and use for an entire year. Must be used within 12 months after first hour of service is used.

This got me thinking.

Imagine how interesting it would be if Google made support free, but took advantage of "partner network" resources rather than their own? Google could set up a universal 800 number for technical support, and they would take care of routing and load balancing incoming calls to certified partners based on many factors including language preference, country, etc. Google would then pay these partners for the time they spent on the phone with clients. How would this save money? Google could require certified partners to "bid" on their minutely rate which helps Google route calls in the most cost effective manner.

Partners will be authorized, trained and able to field general technical questions. For more serious problems that need to be answered by Google immediately, these service representatives will be able to forward phone calls to a real Google employee.

This is just one strategy that would significantly cut down the cost and number of resources required to have superior technical support. Even if this isn't what they end up doing, it's clear to me that they could do better. What do you think?

Topics: Software, Browser, CXO, Cloud, Enterprise Software, Google, Software Development

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33 comments
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  • Wow, I'm impressed...

    ...that is a very Google-y idea. It reminds me of what they did with their IPO, and basically copies AdSense bidding. Great idea and great post, but I don't think Google would allow this new version of their customer service that you suggest to be free. People have come familiar with enterprise support being a paid service. Google will want to continue to cash in on that.

    *digging this shortly.
    fakejake3
    • RE: Google needs to rethink its customer service strategy

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      3shao
  • Sounds like a great idea to me! You would also need a way to rate the

    quality of the service that people are giving.

    But, on the other hand, I use the free version of Google Apps MyDomain, and have never really needed support. One time when you posted about Google Sites being available, I could not figure out how to enable it, and wrote a talkback to that affect, and somebody from Google replied. But, I would have figured it out eventually.
    DonnieBoy
  • Good idea, one problem

    and that Google (and they are not alone) seem to have embraced the concept that as long as the money continues rolling in, there is absolutelly no need to spend that money to make the customer expeirence better.

    Now if the money begins to come in much more slowly, then these kinds of issues will be addressed, marketed as "benefit of choosing our product".
    GuidingLight
    • nobody stays on top forever

      Somebody could come along and actually challenge Google
      (which might be what you're alluding to in terms of the
      money coming in more slowly). Then you might see things
      change at Google.

      The future is definitely interesting and hopefully the end-
      user will be the winner.
      russguill
  • Google believes in the machine

    Google's success and profit have been from a belief that the machine can solve everything. I could see Google routing support queries for free and then letting others charge and have an adsense like model for matching users with providers.
    Dick Hardt
  • RE: Google needs to rethink its customer service strategy

    Wait, the partners would get paid per minute? That makes no sense, I want fast support, not partners trying to keep me on the phone as long as possible to get their money. You should actually think these processes through before you put publish them!
    rmark@...
    • What about a rating system?

      How about also load balancing with user satisfaction ratings as one of the factors? That would keep things moving along at a reasonable pace I would guess.
      Garett
  • RE: Google needs to rethink its customer service strategy

    User helping user support works beautifully in the case of Google's SketchUp product and it's partner rendering software. Rich tutorials, and a "way too much to ever read but I want to" knowledge base is available along with brilliant board moderators. I would be content to get this level of support for Google Apps.
    decorator@...
    • Not always...

      I suppose you would find a user group of complaining users helpful if the application you were trying to use was completely offline. Or, better yet, there was a serious problem affecting all your users' email accounts in Google Apps that definitely isn't caused by user error.

      There are problems that require expert human assistance, and that's what they need to fix.
      Garett
  • RE: Google needs to rethink its customer service strategy

    This is totally absurd. Try to understand that Google wants to get ahold of you so you can input your comments and suggestions on their products that you use.
    atari8bit@...
  • Web 2.0 and Customer Service

    As Google demonstrates, Web 2.0 is weak on customer service and support. Cloud computing rests on assumptions that are not very solid in some cases.

    One is the notion that end users will somehow heal themselves when there is a problem or challenge using a free application set.

    Another is reliable access via broadband where ever you are.

    Neither is a given at this time. It will be interesting to see how these challenges will be overcome.
    ThePrairiePrankster
  • RE: Google needs to rethink its customer service strategy

    Message moved
    Garett
  • RE: Google needs to rethink its customer service strategy

    Only yesterday I asked on the DSL ZoneUK forum if anyone could tell me how to contact Google.
    I want to point out to them that a page headed by one of their sponsored clients is mainly about the rotten or non-existing service provided by that company.
    Have a look at [url=http://www.google.co.uk/search?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&channel=s&hl=en&q=bestpricedbrands&meta=&btnG=Google+Search]this.[/url]
    Mike Bear
  • RE: Google needs to rethink its customer service strategy

    Message moved.
    Garett
  • Faceless Droids

    For a while I was posting negative comments about AAPL stock on Google finance. A bunch of Mac Zealots ganged up on me and reported my (quite reasonable) comments as abuse, so Google banned me from Google Groups. Now I can't access even the Groups I created myself! I tried emailing and posting to the "Support for Google Groups" but no answer. How could anyone "trust" Google with sensitive data or apps if they can turn off access on a whim!!!
    jabailo1
  • I reported a DoS by googlebots...

    ...or something similar. The site http://www.politicamenteincorrecto.net/ is down because it has exceeded its allocated bandwidth. This was due because 19 visits by five googlebots generated 27,000 hits and consumed 1.6 GBytes of bandwidth... just in the three first weeks of June!

    You would expect that this site is tremendous... but is is a very simple blog, with not more than one or two postings per week for the past two years.

    I have a similar complaint from another site about excessive bandwidth by the googlebots, though they did not exceed their quota.

    So how to tell Google that their bots are bringing sites down? There is no contact means that I am aware of... so website owners, beware!
    Samun56
  • Google has customer service? I can't tell.

    Even their paid service (AdWords) sucks.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Google has customer service? I can't tell.!

      I use Google mail and tech support is non-existant. The forums are so full of problems encountered by users it would take the rest of my life to go through just the pertinent ones. As far as I can tell they don't even monitor the forums. Google needs to be taken over by someone that cares.
      Old-Navy
  • My impression, as a Google product user

    and sometime participant in related user fora, is that the concept of users helping users has a lot going for it, where [b]Google[/b] is willing to devote sufficient personnel resources to actively monitor each individual forum and intervene in the intra-user discourse when advisable. The ?Google Toolbar for Linux? fora and the ?Picasa for Linux? forum are two instances where, in my opinion, the concept does work well in practice, due to the engagement and enthusiasm shown by the respective Google Guides. Other fora, alas, seem to be lacking the necessary resources to function as well as they should. And it does seem reasonable that other types of services, better adapted to the needs of those who utilise [b]Google[/b]'s services in the workplace, also be provided. Garret's suggestion, properly modified and implemented, could be a step on this direction....

    Henri
    mhenriday