Google Places – Will Customer Service Decline Further?

As part of Google’s rebranding of the Local Business Center to Google Places, they have created a new help area and a totally new forum area for uses of the Google Places center.

The forum move is particularly dramatic and likely to be very disruptive.   Google has archived the very active threads relating to LBC issues and replaced them with a single thread.

Here are the threads in the new forum:

Discuss how to optimize your Place page

Discuss adding new features to your Place page listing

Discuss Google Places issues with other users

These threads replaced:

Archived: Local Listing Issues

Archived: Verification Issues

On the one hand, breaking out the recreational and business users of Maps makes sense. The removal of categories dealing with the many problems that users confront in the Google Places center rather than fixing the issues or answering them seems very counterproductive. The verbiage of the the last new forum group is particularly illustrative: Discuss Google Places issues with other users. It seems to make perfectly clear, that despite the many problems and issues with flaggings & the verification process that only Google can solve, a user will not be able to expect help from Google.

The changed name and the fact that no link exists to the forum from within the Google Places work area means, that at least for a while, the volume of requests for help will be quite a bit lower. It will also make the job for those contributing their time in the forums more difficult. The old forums, although archived are still accepting posts and do not yet redirect to the new areas.

Given that more businesses will be participating in paid aspects of the business listing process, it would seem that their expectation of service will only increase.

Google’s quest for a scalable support solution seems to have a taken a step backwards. If the new Google Places offers significantly better advice when problem with the ever mysterious flagging occur, fewer issues with verification then perhaps or significantly few bugs, Google could get by with a lower level of customer support. It is not at all clear to me that this has happened. New features yes, bug fixes? Probably not.

Until such time as the process of entering a business in the Google Places process is much smoother, Google will only further anger the many participants of the product that run into roadblocks. I used to think that Google “just doesn’t get customer support”. My new thinking is that they get it just fine, they just are not interested in providing any.

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8 thoughts on “Google Places – Will Customer Service Decline Further?”

  1. I’d be tempted to say if it wasn’t feeding on a popular prejudice that it is a typical behavior of a bunch of nerds, afraid of human interaction. Google’s always been good at algorithms. But never on any social communication, not to mention social media. (besides blogs)

  2. I could agree more with the statement “Google’s quest for a scalable support solution seems to have a taken a step backwards.” Inevitably when an update hits the LBC (and now they’ve doubled the number of updates happening) we see two things primarily: 1) Issues with the LBC at large from functionality to phone numbers publishing in an incorrect format and 2) an influx of junk listings that seem to have come out of nowhere. And the support which has been minimal seems to have disappeared a little more.

    You’d think that some of us who are just trying to clean up Google Maps and make information accurate and readily available (doesn’t that align with Google’s overall philosophy supposedly?) they’d listen to us a little bit more…

  3. @Stefan

    I think your assessment of the cultural issues explains the early days of Google approach to social communication. But I think that they and their investors soon found that it is an extremely profitable way when it comes to customer service.

    If they can drive all of the human costs out of their customer contact arena via engineering then their net income soars. However, this approach appears incompatible with a build quickly and reiterate often philosophy that regularly introduces and/or ignores bugs. It is also incompatible with the mind set of the smb that works so hard to provide personal interactions.

    @Angela There are still a great many problems with Maps. I assume that you are from Europe? As we have not seen the incorrect phone format on this side of the pond…but there are a enough “features” and bugs that stand between the SMB and success that Google needs to think about increased support until they improve the process.

  4. They need to figure out how their own programs work before trying to rebrand everything. I still can’t figure out how to fix my listing problems! Now the help forums are completely gone!

  5. Mike: I’ve got to go back into the forums to get a feel for the impact. I’ve only been sporadic recently, versus regularly monitoring at times in the past.

    It would be a pity, shame, and totally inappropriate for Google to reduce the current minimal level of customer service w/in G Maps.

    As has been noted before in this blog, as it applies to Google Maps….”with great power comes great responsibility”.

    Generally, in the past, Google has shirked meeting the level of responsbility in responding to problems, complaints, etc. Now Google is ramping up its efforts to pull revenues from smbs.

    Come on fellas. If you have structured this in a way to limit service…you are going to create an outcry of complaints. Hope this isn’t the case. I’m going to test the visibility, level of comments, and responses for myself before rendering my own comments…but from Mike’s review, it doesn’t sound good for all those with problems vis a vis google maps.

  6. Well of course…why break traditions with letting us figure out things on our own. Everything from my Nexus One to my lowliest PPC account with poor Quality Scores for some reason…I must figure out on my own. Here is my problem…

    Google has decided to task a team out of Ann Arbor (Adwords location) that calls on clients to help “optimize” their PPC campaign. While then paying around $10 for top 4 placement on searches like “Dallas Plumbing Company” Google made the recommendation (I had no idea) to create ad groups catering to “clogged toilet” and slapped a $27 Max CPC on it. Obviously I was infuriated that an “Adwords Specialist” that actually checks out as a Google employee had ever made such a ludicrous suggestion in the first place. Was it to drive revenue? Or was the “Specialist” clueless to what it costs to clear a clogged toilet and that Adwords average conversion rate would not make that keyword economically viable to advertise under (with that Max CPC)?

    Sorry to rant…my concerns are that there might only be a small group of individuals at the company (Google) currently that could actually field the day to day questions that SMBs have for them. The cost of creating a trained and qualified force of reps could easily be too daunting for Google to consider.

  7. This approach seems consistent with support practices for other Google services. It also creates opportunity for third parties to help business owners navigate the complexities of creating a useful business listing.

    From a scale perspective for Google, this makes sense because it’s easier to distribute the support to thousands of third parties than to hire staff to manage the inquiries.

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