Today Google is changing the category structure and posting process in the Google Maps Help Forum in an effort to reduce miscategorization of topics and improve the quality of the help provided. All posts since the new forum was rolled out in January have been apparently been placed into the new categories:
Problems and Errors —> Map Won’t Load
For Business Owners —> Verification Issues
How Do I? —> Base Map Data
The move, while a big step in the right direction, will not really solve the customer support issues that Google faces in the SMB world.
In the current forums users typically mix questions across the categories and often cross post as they are unsure as to which category a query belongs. This move to upgrade the forums with more granularity has apparently been successful in other Google forums.
Google noted that “We’re hoping to also generate more discussion around the various features of Maps rather than simply providing a forum for transactional questions and answers”.
In the new layout, Google first asks users to identify themselves as either a business owner or not a business owner as to allow a choice to see all posts by business owners only.
The user is then asked to select one of the many new, more specific categories to post their question. Google’s hope is that this will make it easier for them “to identify issues, find resolutions, and circle back in a more efficient way”.
-Maps User Categories:
Not a Business Owner
For business owners having difficulties verifying listings in the Local Business Center.
-Local Listing Issues
For users with questions about editing, adding, or removing business listings.
For users who are unable to use Google Maps because the map won’t fully load.
A place to share your ideas to help us improve Google Maps!
-Base Map Data
For users to discuss the current base map data for Google Maps.
For users to discuss best practices for getting driving directions, or to report driving direction issues.
For users creating personal, annotated, or customized maps.
Discussions surrounding all things Street View!
Having spent a great deal of time in the forums, I think this change is very positive and will generally improve the overall environment of the groups and their usefulness. In many of the categories it will improve the ability of users to help each other and create more of a community feel as MyMaps users congregate or geeks talk of packet problems or firewall settings in the Loading Issues category.
But there is a limit to this strategy to improve the self help nature of the forums. When it comes to small businesses with problems in the Local Listing & Verification process, it is unlikely to be as successful as in the the other categories in changing the transactional nature of the Maps problem solving cycle. The reasons for this are several.