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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Why does Google Have the Maps Support Forums?

Total postings Jan 21 - June 20 by Maps GroupMiriam Ellis has anecdotally documented the frustration that business users feel with Google once they arrive at the Maps Help Forum. The incredulity that smb’s have at Google’s apparent lack of customer support is summed up in these few quotes (amongst the 65 or so that Miriam has documented):

– Google really likes to keep their Customer Service phone number on lock
– If my business’ customer service was anything like Google’s, we’d have been out of business long ago!

Miriam herself asks: Like the small sampling of bewildered, frustrated and angry people, above, I am left wondering why Google builds applications for the use of local business owners – indeed, that end up ruling the lives of local business owners – and then hides from these people. Why build products for the world if you don’t want any involvement with its people?

My opinion? For Google the Maps Help Forums are not a customer support vehicle. That has become obvious as the staff presence there is at best sporadic and at worst might be viewed as a sinister programming of a Pavlovian response. As I pointed out in an earlier article, there are some indications that customer support on Maps from Google might actually be declining. Google clearly knows how to provide customer service and has done so within the AdWords group. Them not providing customer service even in the limited environment of the forums is a conscious choice on their part. So why have forums at all you ask?

The answer?

Google is after all a company of engineers (data driven) that are aggregated as a successful corporation (profit driven). Neither the point of view (engineering) nor the focus ($) are intrinsically customer service oriented.

We know that Google scours the internet for help in prioritizing problems. The forums provide Google a vehicle to gather a large amount of focused information. They provide data for the engineers to crunch and act as an early warning system. It provides the sorts of data of which can be sliced and diced to allow Google insight into what’s working and what’s not, whether an upgrade causes more problems than it should and what kinds of problems people are having that might be improved on a system wide basis (customer service being the exception of course ie without interacting with individuals).

I was curious what one might be able to tell from looking at forum data in aggregate. In an effort to get an inkling of what Google saw I compiled a simple view of the information presented in the primary Map Help forum tabulating total postings in the 3 main sub groups over a 5 month period.

Here is one view of the aggregate data (weekends removed as they were consistent dips in volume) of total postings per day (the three main forums totaled) from January 21st to June 21st:

The large arrow points to April 7th, the beginning a long run of the daily averages increasing from around 60 postings a day during Jan, Feb and Mar to 80 per day for April and May. The postings have averaged 83 a day since the beginning of June. As an outsider with limited view of Google’s wealth of data one doesn’t really know why there was an increase. The date corresponds pretty closely with the start of the increased merging of business records and one can find a few mentions of merging on that date but it could just as easily be a result of an increased visibility of the forums from a link in Google or a combination of problems that are rearing their heads.

We can presume though that Google has oodles of this type of information and more. We can assume that they study it very closely. We can assume that through some sort of rational decision making (within their world view) the decision was to not provide any significant level of support for Maps. While I am sure that there are individuals at Google that would prefer a real customer service response to the many problems they see, it unlikely that we will see one any time soon unless large scale market or public forces demand it.