Googleites Gripe About Sloppy Service

Updated: Google's customer service department is ill-equipped to handle all its commercial ventures and huge customer base, said analysts, competitors and Google customers.

Michele Neylon was once very happy with Urchin Software Corp., which provides a service to analyze Web site traffic.

But ever since search giant Google Inc. bought Urchin in March, hes changed his tune. His problem is with Googles customer service.

"If you choose to deal with Urchin in the Google era, you will not get any personal attention and will have no indication of who you are actually dealing with. For all I know, all my e-mails could be answered by a computer," said the managing director of Blacknight Internet Solutions Ltd., a Web hosting and domain registrar.

"Everybody loves Google. Google can do no wrong. I would disagree."

Since its launch in 1995, Google Inc. has built up a 400 million-plus customer following that arguably has the same level of endearment as the infamously-smitten Apple Computer devotees.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here for an explanation of the importance of customer service.

But the honeymoon is clearly now ending. An uncharacteristically high level of frustration about Google, and more specifically its customer service, has been boiling away for months, according to online rants, Google customer surveys and several recent interviews with Google users.

Googles apparent struggle to control even minor glitches illustrates a bigger problem. Intuitive Web design, sharply written instructions and automated efforts that seem to comprise most of Googles customer service are no longer enough to satisfy customers.

Gripes are coming from the most casual of Google customers on up to the corporations buying Googles search hardware for their computer networks.

For example, a search vendor fumed in June that, "if your company was worth $70 billion, would you have an automated message answer the front-desk phone number, or have a live human take the message?"

He had just called Google Australias office with an urgent request, then had to leave a message in a general voice mailbox.

In October, businesses relying on a Google feature to search mail order catalogs were told, via e-mail, that listings wont be updated possibly for months.

"Im losing business, and all I get from Google is an e-mail? Sheesh," said Peter Johen, a New Jersey-based operator of shopping Web sites.

Consumers of Google Analytics, the name for the Urchin Web features, in November boiled over after a rush of customers overwhelmed the feature.

These are not isolated incidents. The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization dubbed Googles customer service "worse than bad" after a recent survey of companies advertising on the Internet.

Well-known media analyst Jack Myers annual survey of advertising customer satisfaction routinely finds that advertisers arent entirely happy with Googles customer service.

David Fischer, director of Adwords Sales and Operations at Google, said that, overall, Googles customers are very satisfied.

"But were not at 100 percent, which is our goal," Fischer added. "We take our relationship with customers very, very seriously. We track and benchmark ourselves constantly."

Next Page: Is Google stretched too thin?