The Customer Service Survey

Great Product, When it Works

by Peter Leppik on Mon, 2013-02-04 14:25

When it comes to customer service, most companies have one of two basic attitudes.

The first, and less common, is to take the attitude that customer service is an inherent part of what the company sells, and that have a great product or service requires having great customer service. For example, Apple and Zappos.

The other, more common, attitude is that customer service is an unfortunate cost of doing business, and while customers sometimes need help, everything would be much simpler if they just stopped being so demanding. Chances are your bank or mobile phone company fall in this category.

And then there's Google, which is in a category all its own. At least with some of its products, Google seems to believe that customers don't actually need any customer service. Where some companies have made it difficult to talk to a person, Google has stopped playing games and simply doesn't provide anyone to talk to.

(I should add that my opinion is based on what I've seen of Google's consumer-oriented products--I would assume that they have figured out the necessity of providing a helpdesk for enterprise services like gmail for businesses.)

Today's dose of confirming evidence comes from Google Voice. Google Voice is a nifty service which lets you set up one phone number which will forward to multiple different phones, provide voicemail transcription, and let you set up some call routing rules. I tried it for a while several years ago, but didn't want to take the risk of porting my phone number to Google and have things go wrong.

That was a good decision, it seems, since Consumerist reported this morning that people porting their phone numbers to Google Voice have been having problems. Callers would get a message that the number has been disconnected, and this has been going on at least since Saturday.

Google Voice apparently provides no customer service options other than an online forum which is not intensively monitored by Google staff. Complaints have been stacking up for two days (including one person who reported his phone number has been out of service for a month) with no response from anyone at Google. The first official response from Google was, as near as I can tell, several hours after the Consumerist article ran. And that was just one staffer posting that he was "investigating" and would report back when he knew more.

This number porting service from Google costs money, so this is not a case of a free service being worth what you paid for it. Google Voice has left paying customers unable to receive incoming phone calls (perhaps for as long as a month), with no obvious way to complain or open a trouble ticket, and no response of any sort from the company until after the problem was written up in a major online media outlet. That's a service level which would have shocked even Ernestine the Telephone Operator.

And stories like this are why, even though I think Google has a lot of great services, I don't trust them for anything really important to me.

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