Category Archives: Google Customer Service

Google Maps Quality Calls: Improving But Still Confusing

Adrew Forster of Adster Creative recently received and recorded a call from the Google Maps listing quality team.

The calls are improving in quality over previous calls that we have heard. For example the caller clearly introduced herself. A definite improvement. But the call was still confusing. The intent of the call was not clear and the questions asked were not asked in a way that lead to mutual understanding.

If they are confusing to Andrew, who knows about the Google calls and expects them, imagine the confusion still on the part of the SMB. Still some room for significant improvement.

Google+ Local on Suspensions – The Algo Did It!

All too many Places dashboard users are seeing this message of late: Account suspended. Make sure your listings meet the quality guidelinesCathy Rhulloda of Avante Garden, a long time user and promoter of the Google Places and extremely knowledge about local marketing and the google Places Dashboard, was one of them. Her account was unceremoniously suspended despite a listing that was clean. This has happened to a number of listings of late in both the Dashboard and G+ Page for local environment. The problem however is that in the Dashboard the reinclusion process doesn’t work.

She reached out to Joel Headley via a G+ post and the forums where she noted:  I logged into the Places dashboard last night and received a red message across the top saying ‘Account Suspended’. This listing has been verified for many years. Google photographers have even visited my flower shop (twice!) and shot our location. The images and tour are visible on our G+ page (under Photos -> View All).

Joel’s response on both G+ and in the Forums was illustrative and helpful:

Hey Cathy – account suspensions are best dealt over email. I sent you one. Hang in there, and we’ll get this sorted out. 

 Of note – the phone call had nothing to do with the suspension. As far as I can tell, you didn’t do anything wrong. Instead, for your case, it looks like it was an automated process gone awry. We’re looking into that general problem to see what fix can be made. 
If anyone wants their account fixed after seeing the message below, please email our support team though the Google Places for Business Help Center and we’ll look into it. 

I have run into several of these account suspensions over the past few weeks that appeared to be erroneously applied. In several the account was reinstated. In the other the client received  the dreaded support email that the account could not be reinstated and to start a new account. It is not yet clear why support would say one thing and Joel the other…. we are still working on that.

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Google Local Announces Upgraded Phone Support

Last night Google announced that they had formally upgraded their Local listing phone support rolled-out in January to include data issues in addition to the previous phone support that had been added for verification issues. Commenters have previously noted that Google support personal had responded to requests for data fixes on the call line but the process is now formalized via the Help System Fix a Problem Troubleshooter.

While it is possible to get support without filing a “report a problem” first (by telling a little lie), Google has suggested that the problem is likely to be resolved more quickly if you file the report and only call if the issue has not been resolved in a week or so. I think that the reason for that is that the phone support person uses the same back end support infrastructure as the “Report a Problem” process.

To initiate a support call back select the troubleshooter: My listing has incorrect information, highlight the radio button for “Listing data, including title, address, phone, URL, “at a glance” terms, categories, hours, description, or coupons”, indicate yes to question as to whether you have reported a problem and click on the link to call us.

The limits:

  • Click to Call is available weekdays from 6am – 5pm Pacific Standard Time.
  • Google “restrict[s] phone numbers to the US, US business hours, and English, the team should be able to work with any location where Google Places for Business is”

I am glad to see that, despite my initial skepticism, the call support system is being expanded to cover more problems.

Here is a screen shot of the My Listing Has Incorrect Information: Continue reading

“We do not support this location” Update

Earlier this summer, Google removed a large number of residentially located service area businesses (SAB) from the index for not hiding their address. While Google was trying to clean up the index, a number of  these SABs were removed in error. It turned out that Google was unable to restore many of those erroneously removed to the index. Some business listings have been restored but others have been waiting now for a number of months.

Google updated their guidance on this issue last night:

We currently do not support this location

Here’s the state of these listings now (October 8):

Sevice-area businesses who are experiencing the “We currently do not support this location” message should –

1.) Check to make sure you comply with the quality guidelines, particularly hiding your address, if appropriate.

2.) Once you’re sure you comply, contact the support team (select the last option).

3.)  If possible, the team will reinstate listings that are OK.

4.) Sometimes, the support team cannot reinstate a listing, even if it’s OK. These listings cannot be brought back because of an issue that we’re still working on fixing. The support team will send an email back saying the listing is down due to a technical glitch. When we have an update, we will follow up with all of the people who got the message about the technical glitch.

What’s the status of listings in #4?

For listings in #4, there isn’t much course of action other than waiting. Please know that our team’s doing everything we can to get them reinstated when possible.

Hey guys,

Good news — we’ve been able to bring back some of the listings that incorrectly had the “We currently do not support this location” error. Many previously deleted service area businesses that had their addresses correctly hidden a few weeks ago are back.

If your listing’s not back yet, please know that we are still working on it. In the meantime, please review the quality guidelines and this article on service area businesses. Make sure your listing complies.

Thanks,

Jade

For those of you still experiencing this problem, there is only one option. File your request for reinclusion via the Google for Business Help files and wait. Note that if Google is unable to recover your listing quickly then you have no choice but to wait for their engineering solution. Businesses that followed Google’s original advice to recreate their listing have not had any success.

This recent email from Google support sent to me by Kane Jamison of Hood Web Management  clearly indicates that Google is working on these listings on a first come first serve basis:

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Google’s Worst Customer Service EVER – An SMB Tale of Woe

Dan Wakefield runs YardRents.com, an innovative Portland based tool rental firm that directly delivers yard tools to homeowners for their use. His firm, being a service business with his address appropriately hidden on Google Places, suffered the “We Do Currently Do  Not Support This Location” problem that inappropriately removed businesses for the second time in a month (yes Google suffered the exact same problem last month but not as badly).

His tale captures the issues that an SMB faces when Google loses their listing and accurately reflects Google’s current (inadequate) response to the recurring problem. He unfortunately learned the hard way that diversification of review and marketing resources is necessary in a Google world. Read what he has to say:

We had our places profile for several years then we got the “We Currently Do Not Support This Location” at the same time everyone else did.

Unfortunately, whatever they did to fix the problem had the opposite affect for us.  We have been in a state of “We Currently Do Not Support This Location” for almost 3 weeks.  When we look at our places dashboard, we see “Being reviewed – Pending” even though we can still edit information.

Fortunately, Google Places support has been corresponding with us and says that it is a Google technical glitch that’s causing the problem and it is not a result of anything we have done.  They won’t tell us when, if ever, this bug will be fixed.  We had 56 (5 star) reviews on this profile.  It took us nearly 3 years to accumulate those reviews and now they are gone.

The support people created a second profile that is incomplete and has no reviews associated with it.  I question the usefulness of a duplicate profile for the same location, but it was their doing, not ours. They have confirmed that the reviews will never re-associate with the new profile, but maybe the old one will come online someday when they fix the bug.  As far I am concerned, this is a data integrity problem.  It’s funny, if Google were to lose customer data for a few free Gmail accounts then we would hear about it on national news, but lose a few Small Business Google Places profiles and nobody cares (except the business owners).

If there is a lesson to be learned here then it’s “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”  Over the years we have sent every customer to our Google Places profile to write a review and many of them did. Why wouldn’t we?  We trusted Google to do no evil.  With the blink of an eye all those precious reviews have been lost.  We embraced Google 100% and have been bitten because of it.

Going forward, we are sending all customers to our Facebook page to “Like” us and share their experience.  Additionally, we intend to fully embrace Apple maps (when they come out), Yelp, Yahoo Local, Bing etc… Spread things around a little.  The online equivalent of market diversification.  Rest assured, based on this nightmare experience with Google, we will likely not be sending customers to participate in Google Places or Google+ review activity. Funny thing, a fair percentage of our customers actually took the time to create a Google account so they could write the reviews.  Yes, they where that happy with our service.

And Dan is probably right. Creating a second listing is likely NOT a good solution to his problems. Your thoughts?

The Untold Story of 2011: Google’s Significant Investments in a Google Places Support Structure

There is a story unfolding at Google that indicates a huge shift in their thinking about Places. Google, over the past 9 months has been making significant investments in creating support mechanisms for Google Places. Yes, you read that right. But just to be sure let me repeat myself: Google has been making significant investments in creating functioning support mechanisms for SMB problems with Places.

I never thought that I would be writing the words Good and Support and Google Places in the same sentence with a straight face but if current trends continue they are approaching that benchmark. Given that they literally had next to no support as recently as early summer, this demonstrates a significant resource shift and policy change.

Good support requires good processes, good people and good tools. And based on my observations over the past quarter Google has made significant progress in local on all of those fronts. Don’t get me wrong, there is still long way for them to go but there has been a tectonic shift on every front that indicates a 180 degree change in Google’s approach to the issues for SMBs interacting with Google in the free local space.

The History

Support, or rather the lack there of, the poor product quality and the inability to fix all too prevalent problems has been a common thread amongst critics, including myself, of Google Places for a number of years. I have penned a number of screeds on the topic and not one of them showed Google in a favorable light.

The problem has always been that Google would roll out upgrades to Places while never fixing bugs AND frequently providing no mechanism to fix the resultant bad outcomes. Even if these problems were the direct result of a Google decision there was no remedy. If it affected a very small percentage of businesses then you would have absolutely no hope of a solution at all. In fact often it wasn’t viewed as bug at all. In Google’s eyes, the sacrifice of accuracy for a few businesses to see the overall improvement of the index was a switch worth making. It was just the cost of being in the large data, local listing business.

A classic example was the problem of merged businesses. A merging between two distinct businesses into a single Places page was an artifact of the merge/purge routines built into the Maps algo. Two similar businesses, located nearby would become a single Frankenstein like record that showed part from one business dashboard and part from another.

There was no easy way for Google to separate the two. Certainly there was no easy way for the affected businesses to separate them. It required months of careful upstream cleansing of the local ecosystem for BOTH of the affected businesses. It affected a very small % of businesses but if you were the one affected it could be devastating to watch your traffic dry up as your phone stopped ringing.

At the end of the day, the affected business might make their way into the forums, beg, cry and whine. Perhaps their posting was flagged by a top contributor and if they were extremely lucky an engineer would ultimately look at the situation. But it could be months or more likely never. Unless of course you managed to get the case a fair bit of publicity and the shining light of publicity “encouraged” an engineer to take a look.

Clearly Google didn’t want to provide a fix or perhaps was unable to provide a fix at the individual listing level. It doesn’t matter, there was no fix.

But now I am beginning to see a new Google Places support structure emerging that (hold on to your seat…) actually seems to be working. And in a dramatic departure from past behaviors, it is one that acknowledges that the individual Place listing is worth fixing.

The forums: Continue reading

When Google Places Doesn’t Work, It Really Doesn’t Work

Universities, hospitals, governments… it is often very difficult for them to get control of their listings in Google Places. Some of this is due to the claiming process and some due to the underlying nature of the way that Google assembles listing data. Regardless, when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work and, as this frustrated poster points out, could one day very well lead to a disaster. I was just too tired to post an answer in the forums to their query. Perhaps  one of you kind souls could help Frustrated UM out?

Yes, I’ve tried “edit” and I’ve tried “report a problem”.  Those functions are not working.  Here is what’s happening:

Many pages for the University of Montana have the wrong phone number on them.  They all have the phone number for Family Housing listed.  Therefore, Family Housing is being overrun with calls for Financial Aid, Human Resources, Mansfield Library, Registration etc.  They are also getting calls from people looking for Campus Security!  This has the potential to become dangerous.  Students are actually calling the wrong number trying to get to the Campus Police but are reaching Family Housing. Here are the locations that are wrong:

University of Montana: Financial Aid
University of Montana: Human Resouces
University of Montana: Campus Security
University of Montana: Registrar
University of Montana: Native American studies
University of Montana: School of Law

I’m sure there are more.  All of these have the same phone number listed (406) 243-6030, which is for family housing.  I’ve tried using the edit button and the report a problem button.  I’ve followed the steps but all I get back is an email that says “Thank you for updating Gizzy Pool”.  and then later another email saying “We could not update Grizzy Pool, the information could not be verified”.

I did not try to update the Grizzy Pool page (and it should say Grizzly Pool by the way).  I can get no other response.  What should I do?

Again,  before anyone tells me to try the Edit or Report a problem route, I’ve been trying for nearly 2 months with no other response except the Grizzy Pool emails

How long has Rogers, MN been misplaced? Let me count the minutes….

As I noted last week, Google Maps has managed to lose (more or less) the town of Rogers, MN….their “report a problem” feature notes that Map corrections take 30 days.

This widget will keep track of how long it actually takes for Google to find Rogers…the clock has started!

Will they meet their self imposed deadline? Will Rogers ever find its way back to the 7-Pack? Will they find the real Rogers?

Stop back next week to learn the exciting conclusion to this and other mysteries.

Google Maps: What Happens When You Lose a Town?

Wikipedia seems to know, Mapquest knows, Bing knows, even Google Organic seems to know something that is a secret to Google Maps & Google Universal results – the whereabouts of Rogers, MN.

Well its not exactly true that Google Maps doesn’t know where Rogers is. It is apparently more complex than that. But real life often is. The result though is the same.

The Cabellas store that is in Rogers, MN can’t be found by Google (it sends you to Owatonna, MN). The Hampton Inn & Suites that is in Rogers can’t be found by Google (it sends you to Minneapolis). The reality is that not much that exists in Rogers including emergency services (it sends you to Burnsville ..some irony there) can be found by Google. Essentially, everything in the town of Rogers, MN 55374 is MIA unless you search on the zip code instead of the town name.

It appears that Rogers, MN might actually be two places. One , an up and coming fast growth community that is 40 miles or so Northwest of St. Paul and one, that seems little more than a road sign, that is 70 miles southwest of St. Paul. If you look carefully (ie by zip code) you can find the principle Rogers to the NW of St. Paul. I have ground checked the Rogers, MN 55374 and found that it really does exist. I am not all that confident on the other. I couldn’t find anything or anybody there to call. :)

The problem is that when searching in Google, the apparent ambiguity is not recognized and, for whatever reason, the not so significant Rogers, MN gains precedence and nothing shows from the “real” Rogers. Thus no place in the Rogers, MN 55374 can be found. Not the baker, the butcher, not the candlestick maker and certainly not the doctor.

I attempted to explain this whole mess via the report a problem link but somehow the choices just didn’t seem up to handling the problem. I did, in the end, manage to file a report after being booted out of the system once.

But is that really enough? Will it really be fixed in the promised 30 days?

I am hoping that Google takes pity on the poor town of Rogers, MN zip 55374 and finds them a place in the Maps world sooner.

PS Before I finished the article I did get an automated response from Google on Problem ID 94CB-A209-B92C-FD74…..
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Google Upgrades Maps Forums – Will It Solve Support Issues for SMBs?

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:

Business Owner

Not a Business Owner

Topic Categories:

-Verification Issues
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.

-Loading Issues
For users who are unable to use Google Maps because the map won’t fully load.

-Feature Requests
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.

-Driving Directions
For users to discuss best practices for getting driving directions, or to report driving direction issues.

-My Maps
For users creating personal, annotated, or customized maps.

-Street View
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.
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