Google’s Next Mountain to Climb: Customer Support

Google has never had a great reputation for customer support – back in the "hair on fire" days of 2003-2006 the lack of a human response to search engine marketers' questions was a huge complaint. Now the company is going direct to consumers with a major phone launch. As…

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Google has never had a great reputation for customer support – back in the “hair on fire” days of 2003-2006 the lack of a human response to search engine marketers’ questions was a huge complaint.

Now the company is going direct to consumers with a major phone launch. As I wrote about a year ago (about Google Voice):

…the concept of Google boiling the vast Oceania Vox is very, very compelling. But then again….I find it hard to trust Google is really serious about this market. For example, how many real live customer service reps does the company plan to have tasked to this product? That, to me, is a Very Important Question. It’s the essential human question that drives Google. I bring it up all the time. Community. Media. People. How do you make people scale?! How does Google, a company driven by algorithms and scale, find its Voice?

So far, the early results seem to point to what one might expect: Google is not set up to do good customer service in the complicated smartphone/network services/telecomms marketplace. From an article in PCWorld today:

If you buy a Nexus One manufactured by HTC, directly from Google’s Web site, and use it with T-Mobile’s wireless network–who do you call when you have a problem? Google is only accepting support requests via e-mail, and users are getting bounced between T-Mobile and HTC as neither seems equipped to answer complaints, or willing to accept responsibility for supporting the Nexus One.   

What I said about Google Voice I think also applies to the NexusOne: If it’s effortless, if it works without having to call someone to help me make it work, well, it’s a huge, huge hit. But this is telecommunications. I have a hunch it’s harder than that.

NB: Very interesting to see that Google is promoting its NexusOne under the keyword “customer service.”

15 thoughts on “Google’s Next Mountain to Climb: Customer Support”

  1. John

    I think it was showing up for customer service because of your previous personal search behavior. I just searched, and refreshed multiple times, and not one of those times did Google appear.

    Very Interesting

  2. John –

    This is such a smart observation that even if I WERE in the market for a Google Vox product, you can forget about that now.

    The Holy Grail for me is Verizon+iPhone=invincibility! Literally waiting by my current ATT-powered iPhone for the news that Verizon/Qualcomm deal is real, and that devices will be ready by x date.

    Q: Since Google cannot culturally ‘grow’ a customer-centric customer service capability, can they acquire let’s say T-Mobile (and that CS asset) and bolt it onto Nexus?

    Happy New Year!


  3. You’re being quite unfair to Google. They’ve become very good at providing customer support. Here are a few examples:

    1) You don’t like the search results you see? Just add an article to Wikipedia.

    2) You want to ask Google a question about search results? Visit their Webmaster forums and one of their bionic (non-Googler) posters will be sure to drop conspiracy theory accusations in your lap in no time.

    3) You want to know more about the Google algorithm? Send Matt Cutts a question on the right day and he’ll post a video on YouTube.

    To be fair to Google, they have experimented with community outreach in a way that no other company before them has. They have proven the success of some models and are still struggling to make other models work.

    I’m sure they’ll try something innovative with their phone support. Maybe they’ll invent a cell phone chat room or something that is hosted in the Universe (the next evolution of The Cloud).

    Ironically, my CAPCHA for this comment is “asserted false”.

  4. Great point, John. I have really been enjoying my Palm Pre on Sprint so I have no need to switch. However, I can mention this to friends considering the Nexus.

  5. I’ve had a bad experience with Google support also. For some reason they closed one of my Gmail accounts and I couldn’t get a hold of them to unlock or whatever.

    Process took over a week to get fixed, with a whole bunch of emails piling up.

  6. I feel sorry for their new phone customers because, my customer service over at Adwords is awful.

    I’ve been an Adwords customer since the very beginning and regularly spend $500+ per month yet…

    I am unable to get any sort of response to an ongoing issue. A problem that, if fixed, would at least double my spending with them.

    Yet they won’t even reply back to emails.

    I’ve often thought that eventually the government will be the only ones who can get them to offer better customer support…

    Because… what are we supposed to do, advertise on Bing?

  7. I have been using Google 411 for over a year now. (800-466-4411). It is an automated service, sometimes difficult to get the correct listing, then again, my city is hard to pronounce to a computer, Guelph ( pronounced Gwelf). What I like most from a cell phone perspective, is if you can get the business listing, the call ends up becoming a toll free long distance call since the service connects you automatically. If I ever have to call a business long distance, I try Google411 first!

  8. Hello John, I totally agree with your opinion, but I think, that the guys of google know, what they have to do. They’ll reinvent oneselfes and I also think, that the nexus one will become an legendary smartphone!

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