Saturday, March 24, 2012

Google vs. Human: People should always win

My recent loss of access to all things Google thanks to some hackers has me thinking about what it is Google is and is not.

Some background: In mid-February my Gmail account was hacked (earlier post: I’m in Google Hell: A Cautionary Tale) and it took multiple attempts and 20 days for me to get the account back - minus all my contacts and much of my old mail.

During that time I had no access to Google+, Blogger, Google Docs etc. etc. It got me thinking about Google as a customer-centered company.

The company’s informal corporate slogan "Don't be evil" is so-often-quoted that it leaves the impression that all that Google does is for the good (and by default the good of its users).

However, my recent experience in Google customer hell would tell a different story. That this company has not direct human interface with its customers says two things to me:

1. Google prefers not to deal personally with the very people who make its business success possible

2. Google is run by people who are possibly uncomfortable dealing with people in any way other than electronic means (email, for example).

So, given that, here are some things that happened to me contrasted as what Google did and what a reasonable Human would do:

Google: When I went looking for information after my account was hacked, sent me to the Account Recovery Page. This page invited me to enter my email address to be taken to another page where I could answer a series of questions including some most of us would struggle with (The exact date you opened your Gmail account? The exact date you opened another Google-related account?)
Human: Send people to a page where they can have a live chat with someone who can likely resolve their issue on the spot.

Google: After six business days (not the 3-5 promised) I was asked via email for additional information to prove who I was.
Human: Use a Google search to see what comes up on the person contacting Google. If their Google account is high in the results (as mine was) and that account points straight to my Gmail email address that should be proof enough that I’m who I say I am. But wait, if the Google search turns up dozens of results and all point to me that should also be enough proof.

Google: Has human beings who answer the general customer service number – (650) 623-4000 whose main role seems to be to drive people back to filling out online forms.
Human: Have empowered human beings answering the phone who can actually resolve customer problems.

Being human would seem to be in Google’s best interest since it is humans that use the company’s services, provide the raw material for the business model and will decide today, tomorrow or sometime in the future if they want to be a part of Google’s online ecosystem.

I’m not sure what it means for a corporation to be “human,” but I have a sense it includes putting people and their issues first and living up to the slogan “Don't be evil.”

Related post
I’m in Google Hell: A Cautionary Tale

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