Say That Again

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
customer service, ombudsman


Does Google Need An Ombudsman?

from the couldn't-hurt... dept

Lauren Weinstein has an interesting discussion going on his blog, noting a series of recent incidents where Google has done a spectacularly poor job in communicating with the public -- something I've been critical of the company about, as well. The company can be notoriously secretive at times, even when being a lot more transparent would help. Even worse, the company is quite difficult to contact on many issues, unless you happen to know people there already. Its response times, if you go through the "official channels," are absolutely ridiculous (if they respond at all). Weinstein's suggestion, then, is that Google should set up a small team to play an ombudsman role -- basically acting as the public's "representative" within the company. This wouldn't be a "customer support" role (which is often focused on fixing problems directly) as much as a helping hand within the company. The team could take up issues sent in by the public, find the proper folks within the company and get a real response. While the company may fear that such a group would be overrun by complaints, you would think that it could pretty quickly classify the incoming requests into real issues vs. bogus ones, and concentrate on the real issues. Having such a group could certainly help ease the growing view that Google is something of a monolithic entity that walls itself off from the public that uses it.

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  • identicon
    :Lobo Santo, 3 Mar 2009 @ 6:24am

    The Easy Way

    Once you start down that road of "We'll help with your problem" it leads to no end of trouble. I hope Google stays secretive--that way they can keep getting stuff done!

    Customer Service:
    "We're not happy until you're not happy."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Weird Harold, 3 Mar 2009 @ 7:41am

    Google's mantra is "do no evil". Too bad they are slowly turning into one of the truly evil companies online.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2009 @ 8:10am

    Leave them be. Its their company they can run however they please. Google is not a government run operation that it needs public representation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jonnyq, 3 Mar 2009 @ 8:19am

    I recently looked into Google's coupon code feeds. You can provide an XML document and Google will (supposedly) parse that XML document and add the data to Google's Local search, showing coupons for your business, etc.

    Google provides excellent documentation for the XML format, but then doesn't tell you what to do with it. Do you upload it somewhere? Do you put it somewhere crawlable on your site?

    I've found other people on the net with the same issue. I've tried to contact Google, but I haven't received a response in months. So, Google provides documentation for a new feature, but doesn't give you the essential information on how to use it, and then using the email they give you to contact them about that feature doesn't lead anywhere.

    Google needs help. The "ombudsman" idea is not a particularly good one, but they need something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tony E., 3 Mar 2009 @ 12:11pm

    It's a Conspiracy!

    This reminds me of a conspiracy theory that I heard. So Google is secretly a government-owned company that's collecting data on the people that use Google services. I don't know much more about the theory than that, but I assume that they're going to be using this data for evil or something...?

    A little more on topic: it couldn't hurt their image to be somewhat reachable. I think those who feel that such a team would be overrun with complaints aren't looking at the situation realistically. I mean obviously they'll be overrun with complaints, but you certainly don't have to respond to them. There's no obligation to respond to the BS, so it seems like a pretty simple solution to ignore it and focus on real issues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dan, 3 Mar 2009 @ 5:08pm

    i agree

    I think it would be a good idea for sure

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    LNocks, 9 Mar 2009 @ 6:21am

    Google Labels "Update" a bust

    No "conspiracy theory" needed - this is simple bad communication technique for a company whose purpose is to make information exchange easier. I agree with the main point of this blog, especially when these "updates" include bits of software that don't work properly!

    For example, I've gotta tell you I am not loving the recent Labels update. I use a LOT of labels, and every time I try to access the labels panel now, it pops off before I can scroll down to the label I want. . .and usually "Picks" a label for me and assigns it before it pops off. . .but who do I contact? It's easier to blog than it is to simply send a note to the webmaster. Google is going the way of most companies, getting customers involved in long,layered, exasperating searches for a direct customer service contact.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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