GrandCentral is an awesome service that Google acquired last year. It lets you get a brand new phone number that simply links all your other phone numbers together. Not only that, it gives you a load of features that let you do anything from record incoming calls to switch between your mobile and home phone mid-call. Even though the service is hugely popular, it's not without flaws.
A user wrote me today to say he couldn't get to the GrandCentral website, and any attempts to dial his number resulted in an abrupt hang-up on the other end. Now the service is back up, a hacked-in message at the top of the page states the following:
February 15, 2008: Update: Names, greetings and voice mail files are in the process of being restored. We anticipate having this completed shortly. Thanks, The GrandCentral Team
Sounds like a bit more than a network issue doesn't it? I never thought about it, but Google getting into this business might be too much for them to handle. The problem is that Google doesn't believe in one-on-one phone support. When someone has a problem, the user has to hope whatever is broken will get fixed on it's own.
Unlike email, an outage cannot be hidden, or blamed on some sort of random network issue. Usually when email goes down, no messages are lost thanks to the accepted SMTP communication standards, but with phone service, every second of downtime means lost calls and a potentially huge problem.
Google really needs a new strategy for dealing with the problems users have -- the current "report your problem on the public message board and hope for the best" strategy is a flaw that will hurt Google in the future. In fact, the support issue was the main reason the company I work for decided to ditch Google Apps for Exchange. What do you think? Does Google need to change their support strategy, or should people just accept the saying "you pay for what you get"?