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.