The Problem With Google

Google grew up providing a number of free services (email, search, etc.)  Given that they were free, it was not unreasonable to avoid providing any live customer support via email or phone.  Users weren't paying anything, so if they had a problem they could try to solve it on the boards.  In fact, I have criticized whiners on boards for their absurd expectations of customer support for a free product.

Today, Google now offers a number of paid services (e.g. Adwords search advertising) but it still brings its old customer service mentality to these free services.  I pay thousands of dollars a year in advertising to Google, and many others pay much more than this.   Unfortunately, there is absolutely no option for support from a real person on my advertising account.  Sure, there is a section marked "contact us" on their web sit, but all that is is a fairly lame troubleshooting script that does not lead to any sort of contact form or phone number. Just try searching "how do I contact google adwords" to see all the frustration.

I know many companies that are able to provide live support for a $12 purchase, much less a $1200 purchase.  Even Intuit Quickbooks, which pretty much defines the low end of customer service in my little world, is easier to reach than Google.

In the past, I have recommended Google Adwords because it gets results.  While that is still true, I have to withdraw my recommendation.  Right now, my account is effectively closed -- though not, as you might expect, in a fit of pique from 5 hours of trying to get an answer to a simple account question.  It's closed because something broke, and I cannot get it fixed.  The only workaround on the boards for this problem is to close my account (and lose all the records of past search terms used, campaign success details., etc) and open a new account.  Roughly the equivalent of tearing your house down to fix a bad electrical outlet.  No way.  I was looking for a way to economize and Google has apparently just volunteered themselves as my target.  Thousands of dollars of revenue tossed because they wanted to save five bucks of labor.


  1. joshv:

    It gets worse. We use the Google Maps API for Adobe Flash in one of our products. The licensed version costs $10k+/year. Support, other than discussion groups, is non-existent. One bug, where you couldn't print a page containing a Google Map, languished for over 2 years before it was fixed.

    We've even had issues paying Google when there was a question of how/who exactly to pay. They didn't really have a good support mechanism for resolving billing issues when $10k was on the line. We almost started to wonder if anybody would notice if we didn't pay.

  2. DHL:

    This illustrates the beauty of a free market. Someone will eventually step in to offer the services that Google is unwilling or unable to provide. Their monopoly pricing can't last forever (unless they increase their donations to the ruling party).

  3. AlaskaHome1959:

    "Thousands of dollars of revenue tossed because they wanted to save five bucks of labor."

    5 bucks? When did Google give the "livestock" in their cheap overseas labour-mills a raise?

  4. raja_r:

    We spend about $75,000/year on adwords. We have a monthly call with a Google account manager who looks at our campaigns, makes suggestions, etc.

    I think they got in touch with us to set this call up.

  5. David Zetland:

    @DHL and Raja_r have great points. Google could also set up a 900# that costs $1.99/minute. If it's worth it to you, it's worth it to them :)

  6. KipEsquire:

    You're leaving out the other half of the story: Google's Kafkaesque "banned for life" protocols for AdWords. (I'm assuming that's not what happened to you.) Again, no customer support, indecipherable TOS, no appeal process for imagined violations, and the discovery by the naive that you can't just "start over with a new account" because -- surprise! -- Google has been tracking your IP addresses, cross-usage (gmail, etc.) and placing not only traditional cookies but also the nefarious new "LSO" flash cookies that almost no cleaning program erases from your computer.

    You absolutely cannot have a business model that is predominantly, let alone exclusively, dependent on AdWords. Not.An.Option.

  7. Danny:

    I have a friend who runs a very large scale Affiliate marketing company...easily spends a couple of million per year on adwords. He actually has a team of about 6 Google guys that cater to his whims.

  8. ElamBend:

    Google gives no support to it's longtail users, you have to spend a particular amount per month to get the support as the comments here attest.

  9. WAT:

    Didn't you know this (the level of customer support) going in? You voluntarily paid Google for Adwords knowing the level of customer support, did Google somehow mislead you into believing the customer support would be greater? You state that you criticize others for absurd expectations regarding free services, what was your expectation for a paid service? Did you check with Google about what their service levels would be before you started paying for the Adword service? Presumably their Adwords service is cheaper than would otherwise be if they offered more comprehensive support. Would you have been willing to pay more upfront for the Service to have greater back-end support?

  10. ChrisR:

    Definitely no support as most people would define it.

    My Google Places account had some errors. Their verification scheme uses SMS to send you a PIN, which is used to ensure a real person (or real phone!) exists for that account. My SMS message came back as
    "Greetings from Google Maps! Use the following PIN to verify your Google Places listing for :".
    And that was it .. no PIN was in the message. Sigh. I am now waiting for their automated postcard..