Nexus One Phone Support

I love Google. I use it as my search engine of choice and for my email, calendar, feed reader, and a variety of other things. I don’t talk about Google much on Service Untitled because one thing Google is not known for is its customer service. With the recent release of the Nexus One, this issue was brought to the forefront.

The background of the issue is straightforward: Google launched a major product that usually comes with an expectation of easily accessible phone support without phone support. Traditionally, Google has relied on self-service options like community forums, knowledge bases, and occasional support via email. For users of the Nexus One, that wasn’t enough. The result was a busy support forum at Google and a lot of confused and annoyed customers.

The phone manufacturer/carrier support model is a lot like the software/OEM manufacturer support model. Traditionally, carriers provide the support for the phones they provide in much the same way that PC manufacturers such as HP and Dell provide support for Windows. Apple changed this model quite a bit when they started supporting the iPhone directly, but most phone/carrier relationships are still like this (for example, I call Verizon, not Research in Motion, to get support for my BlackBerry). Because Google was selling the phones directly, the relationship changed and people started to expect their service from Google.

Luckily, Google caught onto this pretty quickly and announced today that they were launching a phone support line that would be open from 4 AM to 7 PM PT. Like with other phone manufacturers and other phone companies, people will be able to call and talk to a human.

There are some good lessons to consider as a result of this story:

  • Consider expectations. I wrote about some reasons to provide phone support a while back and one of the reasons I mentioned is if your business model and industry call for it. In the mobile phone business, phone support is expected.
  • Get it up fast. Google was good at getting its phone support up and running quickly. Even though a month doesn’t seem that fast by Internet time, it is a short turnaround time for setting up what will likely be a busy call center at a company that doesn’t really run call centers.
  • Be prepared to break from your traditional culture. Google is not a customer service company. I don’t think anyone at the company would make that claim. Google did, however, break from that traditional culture in order to remain competitive and ensure customer satisfaction.

Think about this story and these lessons before you launch your next product. Doing so might save you some negative (or at the very least, critical) press in the future.