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.