Google Maps Adds Contact Form for Verification Issues

Yesterday, I criticized Google for removing the Verification Issues Topic from the forums. Verification issues  are a very obvious point of friction between the SMB and Local Business Center Google Places management area. Verification after the phone call or post card is requested, goes wrong often enough that a number of SMBs are left without an active listing and not a clue as to how to proceed. The forums never offered a great way to solve the issue as only Google could “fix it”.

Yesterday, after my post, Google correctly pointed out that they were now offering up a direct contact form for resolution of verification issues as “The reason we ‘took away’ the verification forum”.

I stand corrected and laud the fact that there is actually a contact form in place!

I decided however to see, if I were an SMB, how easy it would be to actually find this form. I conducted an experiment. I claimed a listing to see where and when Google offered up assistance to the SMB when requesting verification. Immediately upon requesting the postcard Google offered up this (so far so good although not where or when the SMB will need help):

What if the letter doesn’t arrive?

If you don’t receive your letter within two weeks, or if you have additional questions, please visit http://maps.google.com/support/bin/topic.py?topic=13416. In the meantime, you can review your listing’s status in your Google Places account (see below).

This leads to the home page of the help area. This page is the same page that is referenced from top of the Places management page (a more likely entry link given this scenario). Although in this scenario it would make more sense to put a help link in close proximity to the PIN field.

Since the link took me to a help area, I embarked on the trying to help myself. In succession, I searched on “postcard“, “validation” (the word used during the process), “request verification“. None of these obvious searches offered any real solution to my hypothetical situation (well maybe not so hypothetical) of not having received my post card. Nor did they make it obvious that I could contact Google specifically about my verification problems.

I was not deterred though. I plowed on and went to the “Fix a Problem” section of the site and there selected the About verification link which led me to the About Verification page. But alas still no answer. I then made my way to the “Google Places › Help articles › Fix a problem › Verification › PIN by postcard has not arrived yet” area thinking that I had finally found a solution. Here is what I found:

PIN by postcard has not arrived yet

It generally takes 2-3 weeks for a postcard to arrive. If you’ve been waiting more than 2-3 weeks, please visit the Google Places to request a new postcard. Note: Only one PIN by postcard is valid at a time, so requesting a new postcard will invalidate the previous PIN. Also, we encourage you to double-check that your contact information is correct before you submit a new request.

I had still not stumbled upon Google’s new, and improved contact form nor an obvious link to it. I have no idea how visitors to the Help area actually flow through the site. I assume that, like all sites, it is via many routes. Perhaps the first thing the SMB typically clicks on is the Contacting Support link. If they do, that would have been a more successful strategy although still not a perfect way to find nirvana as it was still one more link away (Request a verification PIN for your individual business listing).

I don’t know how a real SMB would respond to this situation. I do know that while Google has in fact actually provided a contact form (3 Cheers!!!), most if not all SMBs will stumble when trying to find it.

I do apologize to Google for missing this new and valuable Report Verification Issue form. It is a monumental improvement and recognition that Google themselves needs to be available when no one but they can fix the issue. Regardless, I still think that they have not done all that can be done to facilitate the process for the SMB when this type of problem occurs.

Google is capable of putting the answers closer to the user in a more accessible fashion. Hiding the contact form is either a case of bad interface design or bad intentions. I hope it is the former.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Maps Adds Contact Form for Verification Issues by

8 thoughts on “Google Maps Adds Contact Form for Verification Issues”

  1. Mike: I applaud your comments on the changing nature of google maps, Local Business Center Google Places management. I especially enjoyed how trying to replicate a typical business, you tried to work your way through the information to find an answer.

    Its difficult. I’ll have to try it myself. That is the only way I learn. A small business needs an easily accessable system smart person on hand to often work out problems of all sorts for all types of business problems. I know. I’ve got this issue on all sorts of small businesses located in diverse areas.

    Other types of support are easier to work through. There is a fair amount of expertise in solving server issues, dealing with internet connections, dealing with installing and fixing software, etc.

    But Google Maps/local business center Google Places Management is different. Expertise is scarce.

    More importantly, Google responsiveness is minimal. In fact, Google acknowledges responsiveness is minimal–they tell us that in the contact form for verification issues with this statement : “Need to contact our support team? While we use your reports to learn about issues affecting multiple users and take action when necessary, please note that we don’t generally respond to personal reports here.

    All in all the system is rough on SMB’s. Eight days ago I tried to address a problem in the Map in Google.com (7pac, 3pac, onemap, etc).

    Its the Maps status that is most often seen and acted upon by visitors. Its many many times more visable than information on the Places Page.

    Its a security problem. That makes it serious Its been 8 days and there has been no change.

    Its very rough to deal with issues with minimal support. Its harder to deal with issues with essentially no support.

    C’mon Google. You are plowing after more and more SMB advertising revenues. You have profits up the kazoo.

    Put some more effort into customer service.

  2. Thanks so much Mike for leading the way on all these Google support issues and for taking the time to go through the process above as an example.

    So many more SMB’s are going to be signing up with Places and I just can’t even imagine the multitude of problems that are going to compound if the listing process, help tools and support doesn’t get cleaned up and ramped up to meet demand.

    God help the small business person right now that doesn’t know what they are doing and hits a snag!

    I agree with Matthew! Google should just hire you as a process/support optimization consultant! :-)

  3. I just found and filled out the verification issue (I haven’t been able to verify a listing for one of my clients since Dec 2009 via mail and phone is not available).

    After I filled out the form, I got this response from an autoresponder:

    “Sometimes it may take longer than 2-3 weeks to receive the PIN. If it’s been close to a month, please request another postcard to be sent to you or request a new PIN to be sent to your business phone number, if this option is available to you.”

    If this is all they plan to offer, I am about to go nuts! This e-mail came from local-help@google.com. I sent a personal note to that account about the issue and will continue to do so regularly until I can get a resolution.

  4. Thanks Mike for reporting this and thanks also to Chris for telling us what will happen when you actually submit the form.

    I’ve had clients’ listings post smoothly and for no apparent reason, other listings seem to become functional in stages — active but not appearing in search; appearing in search but not having a location to tack a coupon to; and then displaying the location for the coupon, but still not displaying the dashboard search analytics. This progressive posting is occurring over a period of four months. Since the listing is doing well in search results, I’m not too bothered about the absence of analytics on the dashboard.

    Thanks again for the information!

  5. Just a quick followup to my local-help@google.com experience… it was fantastic.

    I had an e-mail dialog with an anon support person that walked me through the process of getting my listing verified. I can provide the full text of the discussion if needed.

    Anyhow, it turned out that for some reason my Google account had flagged something with their verification process and they asked me to use an account with the same domain as the site I was trying to validate. Once I did that I was verified in 3 minutes.

    After 5 months of sending off for the postcard several times and no help from forums, this was excellent. I hope it is the shape of things to come!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Comments links could be nofollow free.