Once Again, Google's Customer Service Is Becoming An Issue

from the this-again? dept

We’ve had a whole string of stories in the last few months about communication problems from Google — from users getting locked out of their documents to advertisers banned with no explanation or recourse to a blogger who went six months trying to get Google to turn back on a blog that it had shut down. I’ve heard from a few Google folks, noting that they recognize it’s an issue, and it’s something that some people within Google are trying to deal with. But given all of these problems on “smaller” issues, perhaps it’s no surprise that there’s been an outcry over the poor customer service people are receiving after purchasing Nexus One phones from the company.

Google does lots of things really well. But, clearly, customer service is not one of them. And while its massive success can hide (or at least minimize) the impact of such poor customer service, at some point it’s really going to begin to hurt, unless Google finally wakes up to the fact that when people have problems, they want to be able to reach out to a human being who will listen to them, hear what they have to say and (hopefully) help. Some have claimed that this is just not Google’s culture — and perhaps that’s the case, but at some point that cultural flaw may cause much larger headaches.

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Comments on “Once Again, Google's Customer Service Is Becoming An Issue”

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Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Google Is IVR or .com

It’s true. It’s a big weakness of Google. I’ve written some comments in other techdirt threads about this. Some other commenters said “great, google phone, now we’ll have a free phone with free cellular plans” in response, I pointed out that google would charge for their phone, and you wouldn’t see a discount on the plan. The reason for that is the same as the reason for today’s discussion:

Google makes money by doing cheap things, in very high volumes, keeping costs down, and making small revenue each time they do it. How many web searches do they do? How much do they make per web search? But do enough, and you make profit.

Sooo, that brings us to customer service. Every time a customer calls a call center, the cost is something on the order of $7 – $15 dollars (dependent on a bevy of factors, of course). One single such call to Google for a Gmail problem, or blog problem would kill their profitability for a specific user. Thus, they have built a culture of good products, and decent web support. They have also relied heavily on community support (cheap, crowdsourced). What they DON’T do is provide a human to solve your problem.

That support model works fine when Google is offering free services, as people don’t expect too much…and Google manages expectations by calling it “beta” for years. But if a customer drops $500+ on a Nexus…well, the expectations just changed. That customer will expect the seller to support the product.

Apple users have the fantastic option of going to an Apple store and getting a wizart to help them with their Mac or iPhone. Google users have…web community help!

This will definitely be a problem for Google. It will be interesting to see if it remains so, of if they can react, and change — at least in their $500 unit cost businesses. But their B2B relationships don’t suggest so: Advertisers and partners who do easily far more than $500 of business with Google have long complained of a lack of “human intervention” when problems occur. For now, Google is basically the .com equivalent of voice mail hell.

Still, I think Google is a great company. It’s funny, but we also sing the praises of Zappos.com, but the two great companies are almost total opposites on customer service.

RD says:

Customer Service?

Google, like all corporations, cares about one thing: money. Companies like this do not care AT ALL about the customer. The ONLY time they care about the customer is when they are either a) forced to, by laws, or b) enough customers complain/leave and there is enough impact on the money. Otherwise, they could care less. If it affects the money, then they care… ABOUT THE MONEY. Never about how they are treating the customer.

This is true in ALL cases.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Customer Service?

Uh, customers are what generate money for a business from start to finish. They don’t only become a problem when they leave in droves – good customer service is one of the things that can make a business succeed in the first place. It’s integral to the entire process. The whole “they only care about money” thing is just sensationalism – yes: their primary goal is growth, and customers = growth

:) says:

Sony Timer

Big companies have one flaw they can’t give good costumer service, they are to small to the size of the market they occupy and they wouldn’t have the resources to attend all people. Its basic math really, you can’t service millions having only a few thousand employees but it gets to a point when rumors start appearing like the Sony Timer thing in Japan where people think that Sony on purpose put a expire timer on their products, of course no one have ever proved that to be true still the rumor persist in Japan could it happen to Google? I think it could, in time some rumor will appear an people will be inclined to believe it and it will hurt them.


interrobang!? says:

im surprissed google hasnt tried to do some sort of crowd sourcing expirement. with the tech in google voice able to transcribe voice to text woud it not be possible to like crowd source volentiers and vet them based on whether the software can pick up their voice or not.
add in some sort of ranking system for wether a person is helpfull or not and either whuffie or money when/if a problem is solved and you have potential for a cheap customer service setup that would sort of scale to times when its most needed. ie people would log on to there help account when they have time to take (voip)calls and that would be most likely at a similar time when everyone else is calling for help. and because you only pay them when they actually help someone you also get a low cost solution.
although fruad would be a pretty big problem.

TW Burger (profile) says:

Get Big Enough and Everyone Hates You

Google ‘saved’ us from Microsoft – who will save us from Google?

Seriously, Google is venturing into a market they do not have a great deal of experience in. I would be extremely surprised if they did not have problems and complaints.

This is why I have a basic $50 cell phone with a pay as you go no contract network access. The smart phone market is relatively new and there are a lot of growing pains to be worked through.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Welcome! Enjoy my lawn!

Hehe, nah, he has a bit of a point. For some of us, a smartphone still isn’t worth it – especially for me in Canada where our data rates are outrageous. I’m rarely so far from WiFi that I need more than a cheap flip-phone and my iPod Touch. Don’t get me wrong: I get iPhone envy all the time, but I can’t justify the expense. I suppose it would probably be a different story if I was south of the border, though.

In many ways I still really, really do like having a cheap phone that I treat with total disregard (the little LG flips are surprisingly durable) and use only for phone calls and short texts.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Welcome! Enjoy my lawn!

No, no. I agree. There are people to whom I would recommend the Jitterbug phone: loud speaker, fake dialtone, big buttons, easy to use.

The most simple tech products (of no tech products) are absolutely appropriate for certain market segments.

…but those segments do correlate with the “get off my lawn” set.

sehlat (profile) says:

Communications companies can't communicate.

I’ve noticed that it’s endemic to companies whose specialties involve communications. Google is such a company, even if their specialty is linking advertisers to customers.

The old Ma Bell and Xerox in their heydays didn’t listen to what people wanted or needed. This has been equally true of their successors in the various cell-phone/land-line/ISP areas. Comcast and Verizon’s crappy customer service are legendary.

And the grandest examples of all, the movie, recording, and publishing industries are pretty much stone deaf to feedback, unless it’s what they’re willing to hear, and accompanied by bushels of $$$$.

So Google’s problem is a surprise how?

Anonymous Coward says:

Did anyone bother listening to those of us who were very unhappy (and highly vocal) G1 buyers? I was so vocal, someone, either Google or T-Mobile, invited and paid me to take part in a focus group of power users, asking what they could do better in the future. A year later, I still don’t have my damned Adobe Flash or a PDF reader (some third-party PDF apps exist, but so far, they all suck wind), while my five-year-old first-generation smart phone has all those capabilities and more.

I’m super pissed that the Nexus has the G1’s missing basic features built in, particularly the Adobe Flash Player. Hello. There’s nothing like telling your very first generation of Android customers to take a long walk off a short pier. When I heard a tech reporter describing the features of the Nexus from the floor of CES, I almost drank the Kool-Aid, because the phone sounds absolutely fantastic, and then I remembered. I drank the bug juice 15 months ago when I allowed myself to be scammed into ownership of the G1, and if anyone is crazy enough to fall for the Nexus scam, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Wait 12-18 months. Let some other asshole be the first one to test-drive the Nexus. Whatever the tech world learns from the Nexus will undoubtedly be rolled into later generations of Android-based smart phones. The future of Android as a mobile platform is unlimited, and as I’ve posted on TechDirt before, I stand in awe of the brilliant minds who are writing some incredible Android applications.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wanted to add: I wasn’t in need of any formal tech support with the G1, and all of my questions were answered with a Google search and the very useful message forum T-Mobile set up. I also networked with some incredibly cool independent web groups devoted to hacking and tweaking of the G1. Much of the information in the user manual that came with the phone was outdated and incorrect, including how to turn some basic features on and off. The internet was the missing link, at least for me, as a first-generation G1 user.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Google’s customers are its advertisers. So it has never really had a need to provide customer service to its users. That’s obviously changing. If Google is going to sell phones and provide office software and expect users to use those products and services, eventually it will have to start providing support.

I think one of the reasons people think of Google so favorably is because for the longest time we’ve been users and never had to actually contact Google directly, in comparison to companies such as cell phone and satellite companies, who are universally reviled.

This is a turning point for Google. Now that it expects its users to also be customers, let’s see how much longer the Google love-fest will last. My guess is that it won’t last very long. Providing customer service is expensive. Providing quality customer service is really expensive and is very difficult. The balance between giving your service employees enough power to actually solve problems, without having them give too much away at great costs, is nearly impossible. Even Apple doesn’t get it right every time.

RD says:

Not wrong

“Uh, customers are what generate money for a business from start to finish. They don’t only become a problem when they leave in droves – good customer service is one of the things that can make a business succeed in the first place. It’s integral to the entire process. The whole “they only care about money” thing is just sensationalism – yes: their primary goal is growth, and customers = growth”

Yes, and you are correct. But what you are describing is what SHOULD be, how companies SHOULD behave. They dont. They only do – ONLY – when it impacts their bottom line. Until then, they use, abuse, and take advantage of the consumer at every turn. This goes in direct proportion to the size of the company, which is why you see more of the better behavior in small companies than it large corps. The larger they get, the less they care about those who got them there, and more about just money.

LarryC says:

Try submitting a bug report

Yep, Google’s “free” products seem great, but try getting support. As an example, I have found a real, repeatable, and fairly large bug in Picasa for Windows. Other users in the Picasa forums have confirmed the problem.

I was shocked to find there is no way to submit a problem report or a bug report. The best you can do is post your problem and hope that someone from Google acknowledges it.

I’ve had similar issues with Google voice.
Their products are great, but you get what you pay for.

Dave says:

but giving customer service is annoying

I use Google, and I like it, with some reservations. I think the deal here is pretty simple.

They figure, we offer free stuff, so screw supporting it. If you don’t believe me, try contacting Google.. even if you can find it 12 screens deep, getting a response is very unlikely.

After all, customer service is annoying AND expensive, so they just don’t bother! 🙂 But with an expensive product like the phone, I KNEW they’d get a rude customer service awakening. Those Google people are awfully smart, but maybe not smart enough to prepare for the inevitable backlash (and like many smart people, they drink the Koolaid and think they’re invincible).

They had terrible customer service reviews on Google checkout, too. Maybe they figure their little geniuses will code their way out of any problem so they can still avoid having any customer service. Slick, they are!

Rashan (profile) says:

Google Customer Service

I have been trying order a Nexus One for a bit, but I wont get into the whole ordeal. I do think its funny that when you call T-Mobile; they will call HTC for you and say “send an email to Google”. When you call HTC they will take down your information (apparently they’re gathering complaints to report to Google.), and tell you to email Google. You search on the Forums and see people begging for Google to post something dealing with their problems. You can try emailing Google, but they will tell you up front you may not get an answer but they will read it. It’s Google version of “we are taking this matter very seriously”.

Denise Sprague says:


My website is going to be cancelled because google has made a mistake on my credit card billing and the link they keep sending me to input correct info doesn’t work. I called customer service hoping to talk to a human and was told there is not phone support. I guess thet don’t care about losing customers and frankly I am so fed up with Google i really don’t care either, but i don’t want my credit affected. Does anyone have any ideas?

HR Tranformation says:

customer service

Try this…dial their Hdqrs number, 650-253-0000, select dial by name and then enter a common last name..Smith, Johnson you get the drift. There has to someone with a common last name at Google. Leave the person a message and ask them to have the appropriate dept call you back. I’m trying to reach the legal dept…ya’ know they have one…probably huge! LOL

Good luck!

Trotskiii (UK (user link) says:

Google is Hopeless!

I’m no fan of the Apple approach but Google’s arrogance is towards its customers is breathtaking.

Whether it is trademark infringement issues, Google checkout problems or Adword issues Google customer service comes up lacking every time. I even phoned them up once to be told by an anonymous member of staff that it wasn’t Google’s policy to give out their names!

I had an amusing conversation yesterday with someone who claimed that Android was the Linux of the mobile phone community and that its open-ness would be Apples undoing. I nearly choked on my beer when he told me this – The truth of the matter is that there has been little transparency between Google and developers and quite honestly Android might as well be a closed OS!

So when it comes time to for most customers to replace their iPhone are they going to place themselves in the hands of Google’s or stay with Apple’s reasonably efficient (if closed) alternative – I think you already know the answer!

dianefiske says:

google poor service

It is impossible that Google cares at all about the public. I wanted LinkedIn removed from the top of the search for my work and ended up looking at a list of long articles and offers to join tool clubs or Google gangs. Since I had a limited amount of time, I gave up. Does anyone know how to get commercials removed from searches?

Aly Even says:

Google customer service

Thanks for a place to vent. Online for a birthday gift certificate to Computer Junkies and Google took payment.
The vendor was not approved by them, the vendor now does not have my money and Google has no phone number to resolve the issue. They make a lot of $ holding onto refunds that they do not process for weeks. Order date 11/05…still no certificate or refund.

This is fraudulent to take money for vendors not even approved and make the customer wait to see if Google will approve, in the meantime Google has my $. UGH

Adwords customer (user link) says:

I hate Google

We’re a brand new company and already spending $5k monthly for adwords. Google suddenly cut our ads -WITHOUT ANY WARNING- because our landing page ‘violated’ their landing page policies. I’ve read all the forums, both Google’s and others’, have used all possible validation tools and found nothing. I am positive that it is not our fault.

They suck at customer service. They won’t reply to emails sent from help pages. They don’t put up phone numbers for most of the countries they are present in. If you somehow find their office phone number, they would lie that it’s not a Google office (true story-I don’t know why they do it). And the worst is you are stuck to them and the traffic they send to you – and they make you feel it!

This is worst-practice B2B. I just hate doing business with them. Way to go ‘do-no-evil’ !!!

Marilyn Scott (profile) says:

Terrible service from Google

Discovered this morning that my gmail password didn’t work – it seems my server was doing maintenance and all things went astray. . . . a whole day contacting google by their online form was a disaster – form would not accept some of my details and google refuses to communicate any other way – no one is too big to fall, as we know. A whole day trying and I still have no access to my gmail or blogger accounts – they reckon they dodn’t have enough valid info from online form (which would not accept some of my info) – to reinstate my account – for someone so supposedly so techno savvy as google – they fail miserably. . . . .looking for the next alternative – remember google no one is too big to fall. . . . .

Anonymous Coward says:

Worst customer service ever! Having major google voice issues–even after porting away from them. What’s their first line of support? A dude from Google on a “suport forum.” His username is “JonathanLovesCats.” THAT’S how they treat their customers? Really? How the heck they ever expect to maintain a single business customer is beyond me…

Jake says:

Whoever has the gold makes the rules

Until Google decides to do something about it, there is nothing we can do except deal with it. It’s pretty ironic that the only number you can call and talk to a live person is Adwords. Go figure, the main way they make all their money. Even if you ask to talk to someone regarding Adsense, they quickly say, “Uh, go to the online forums.” Click..

The only way we the people can make our voice be heard is to simply stop using Google.

Dennis says:

Googles Poors services

Example of Google’s poor services. My account on Adwords has been suspended for a violation of the Advertising policy, How could i be in violation when my account wasn’t active to post ad’s? Here is the proof, Read everything closely In the red banner across the top of the snapshot i have taken.. http://i1279.photobucket.com/albums/y535/SpazOut07/Discrimanatioin-1.png

Tesa says:

I liked Google before I had to deal with them as a corporation that sells products.

I purchased Google’s Nexus 7 tablet from the Canadian Google branch online and what a mistake that was and I have never seen such a poor and non-existent service from any retailer. They basically have no phone number, no customer service specially in Canada as though they are not to abide by consumer protection laws in other countries although they have registered in Canada. I believe that they only way a human being working for Google can be reached by phone in Canada is through the courts. By being a massive company with racks of lawyers, the consumer will even hard time with a court claim.

Their head office in Canada does not pick up their phones at all. Their American branch which has produced this tablets as a Google product refuses to even accept it as their product or take responsibility for defective screens that are well documented to be prone to cracking spontaneously and they are still selling them to their unsuspecting customers and excluding the likely to be defective parts from warranty. Google has designed its retailing operation to skim the profits and pass the losses to the buyer or manufacture by taking no responsibility for selling the defective products although it is responsible an only the entity that highest power over the nature of product that it has ordered. If Google was selling cars with defective transmissions, the cars would not have been recalled.

I would avoid buying any product that may need support from Google in the role of both supplier and retailer. What I have also learned before buying a gadget, to call the manufacturer to find out whether they have service center for that item within driving distance OR I would make sure that you get extended warranties that have no exemptions so I would account for the cost will escalation before buying those gadgets.

Thao Vuong says:

Google AP/AR department is a joke

From trying to order as a business for Google services to trying to get a simple invoice (pdf or paper) from Google is a week long time consuming, manhour intensive process with emails to address that get no reply even though the payment notices have an email to inquire about.

The initial purchasing of a service to bill to corporate accounts was also a nightmare that took almost 3 weeks to resolve followed by annoying reminders a month later of payment for non existent invoice.

Really-we deal with over 500 software vendors and Google is probably one of the worst Accounting Department to deal with. No people presence and of course the circular web clicks on their site(s) lead to nowhere with stupid generic question and chest pounding on how good they are.

Revathy says:

Customer care inefficiency

I totally agree. I am facing with a log-in problem and tried taking help from Google customer care. I was asked to use their support website,even before listening to my complaint. I followed what they told me, but that was not of any help in resolving my issue. I tried calling the customer support once again and I got the same suggestion. I asked the customer care person to first listen to my complaint but he disconnected the call abruptly.

I am not at all satisfied with Google’s customer support system.

Luis Angel Lopez says:


To summarize my problem as best as possible. For a reason that google could never explain, my google account had a hold that prevented me to buy apps through credit/debit cards and also did not allow me to redeem gift cards.

It all started on a Wednesday where I made my first call. In that call they told me that they had to pass the case to another department and the process to solve it would take about 24 hours when they would send me an email indicating the solution. 24 hours later I call again since I had not heard from them. At this time I was told the same thing as the first time. I told them that my impatient to resolve the case was to buy some apps that were special for thanksgiving dates, but they tried to reassure me by saying that these specials usually lasted throughout the Christmas season. Again they told me to wait 24 hours where they were supposed to contact me with the solution. 24 hours later they did not answer. I go back and I call, on this occasion I was told “Wait always has its rewards” to fall in love with they… This time I was told to wait 12 hours for the final answer. 12 hours later I call again, this time the customer service told me sharply “anyone who calls every day will not expedite or solve the problem” and to top this he told me to wait 3 days for the solution. LOL, I laugh because to summarize, I had to create another account to redeem the gift card but it was to late, the apps had gone up in price. Ironically, within 2 days of doing this I get an email from google saying that they had already solved the problem of my account … 2 WEEKS AND HALF to solve this. THAT’S WHY APPLE IS APPLE …

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