How To Do Business Better Than Google

October 18, 2010

10:26 am

Beta.

This is a term Google likes to use on all of its products for a time period that is long after the maturing of those products.  Gmail just recently shed its Beta tag, despite having had millions of users for years.

While it is fine to tag a product as Beta while initially bringing it to market and working out the kinks to get things right, you should never let the Beta tag (particularly, a long-standing Beta tag) mean a lack of service behind a product.

Ironically, Google, the company with the power and money to be able to provide world class support, basically provides none. Have you ever had an issue with a Google product, like Gmail, Google Voice, or Google Docs?  If so, did you ever find a support number to call and get your issue worked out ?  I doubt it.  Recently I ran into an issue with my Google Voice account.  I stopped getting text messages from any user on the AT&T network – yes, that means iPhones, and that’s a lot of users.  Since I use Google Voice as my primary number, as many do, this led to quite an issue.  Yet there was almost no recourse or support chain for me to get any type of support or resolution.  Google makes it near impossible to actually submit a ticket and get feedback from anyone on your issue.  Can you imagine if your Gmail went awry, who would you call?

This got me thinking about the products we use and the support ecosystem needed to fulfill the promise, implicitly or explicitly made to the user community.  It struck me that while many of us see Google as a progressive company that makes all the “cool” products, we curse the traditional ones like Verizon and Comcast for their terrible service.  I say to you, at least they have service.  There is a phone number I can call and possibly have a chance at getting my problem resolved.  They are not perfect by any stretch, but they are there.  Now, many will pose the argument that we pay for services from Verizon and Comcast, which in turn creates the ability and expectation to provide service, and that Google’s products are free.  However, I would argue that we do pay for Google’s products, indirectly.  In Gmail for instance, Google places ads inside our mail inbox, utilizing the content of our email as the basis for those ads.  They make money each time someone clicks on those ads. Users also pay Google by giving them search data each day. Given the ads, the data, and the fact that their product has become so ingrained with an enormous user-base, I believe they have a responsibility to support their products in a more professional manner.

So you want to provide better service than Google?  It’s simple: listen. And more importantly, respond to your users.  In todays technology landscape, your user-base should have numerous ways to report issues to you.  Assuming you are not the size of Verizon or Google, you don’t need a call center staffed 24 hours a day.  Really, all you need is a Twitter or Facebook account.  Add an email and maybe a voicemail box and you are ready to provide world-class service to your growing user-base.  But just because you have all these channels, it’s doesn’t end there.  You need enable communication with your users, in both directions. Your customers are trusting you with their time and usage. Don’t let them down.

Part of image, courtesy of groubal.com.

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Jimmy Gardner is a Senior Unix/Windows Engineer, a lover of technology and photography. Follow him online at @jjgardner3 and enjoy his portfolio at jjg3photo.com/.

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