Saturday, July 28, 2012

Google: Customer Support from Hell.

In Google's early days Larry Page decided that customer support was a very expensive proposition and the company could not afford it. In a brilliant move, he (and his crew) created community support forums where users were encouraged to help each other to ask questions and resolve problems. The solution was in the spirit of the Open Source movement where fixing bugs and making the system more robust was a community project, not a business responsibility. The idea worked (and still works) well because Google's only mission-critical, money-making service was Search, which didn't require much support  - only expert advice on how to use various product features to improve results.

As Google becomes more of a consumer electronics and cloud services company, the "do-it-yourself-community-based-customer-support" model shows a certain degree of strain. For example, a couple of days ago posting to Blogger from e-mail stopped working. It's a minor problem for me because I use this functionality to archive relevant Bloomberg news from my iPhone. Now, instead of posting the news to the blog I send them to my own mailbox.

In the meantime, Blogger users are becoming restless. On the first day, they dutifully reported the bug and waited for an answer. By midday, a support volunteer related the problem to Google engineers. A couple of hours later somebody from Google named Brett acknowledged the problem and said they were working on it. Then, silence.
The users waited and waited and waited. Finally, this morning the complaints have become a bit louder. Chris Warner summarized the situation,
This is the single worst thing about anything Google; when it works, it works well. When it breaks, there's no way to directly contact them, there's *never* any official feedback. "Community" with Google is a one-way street.
Nuff said.

Update: this seems to be a part of a bigger issue with Blogger e-mail gateways. I wonder why they don't roll back the changes that created the problem in the first place.

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