Google support gone wrong

Google really produces great software. I use many of them: Web Search, Picasa, Reader, Feedburner, Analytics, Images, Groups, Docs, Translate, Code, Chrome, Maps, Video, Blog Search, Youtube, AJAX API, Webmaster Central, and Site Search.

Just to name a few :)

Problem is, with many of the above, if something breaks you’re out of luck. Because it’s god damn impossible to get a hold of someone that you can talk to. Do you reach anyone at Google with your e-mails? Does anyone from Google read your forum posts? Highly unlikely.

Google is a great example of support gone wrong. I think the explanation is easy: Few of the programmers I know want to deal with support. They want to deal with coding! And since Google is a company of programmers, it doesn’t want to do support.

Let me tell two stories:

Feedburner

Feedburner once was a great company, with a simple but thought out service. They gave you subscriber statistics of your RSS feed. You just redirected your feed to them, and made all your subscribers sign up to their generated feed, and they did all the tricky calculations. Simple, efficient.

As a company Feedburner understood the value of being personal. Messages throughout the site stated “My feeds like a little namespace to call their own”, “Sometimes your feed just wants to look good. Spruce it up in the following ways”, “Oh dear, what kind of trouble?”. Nice personal touch :) Feedburner developers where easy to get in touch with, an e-mail and you had a friendly, knowledgeable person to talk to.

Then Google came along and bought the whole thing. Everything was rewritten to Google’s platform, domains where switched, and chaos ensued. Of course, during that time, Feedburner’s previous support people totally vanished, and everyone was directed to the Feedburner Status Blog, when you could confirm they where not working on your problem. Just great.

For three weeks now, my subscriber stats have jumped from 800 to 3000, back an forth, several times per week. Nice, isn’t it?

feedburner_stats

Feedburner is apparently broken, and the simple service of delivering feed statistics doesn’t work.

So I post to their Google Group, the place where you should ask questions about the service. Three months later, several other users have reported having the same problem, but no reply from a Feedburner developer.

Now I’m thinking of switching. Anyone have a good alternative ready?

Google Wave

Services that start at Google are even less likely, compared to acquired services like Feedburner, to have proper support. It’s just not a priority, and there’s far too many interesting programming challenges to deal with users.

So when Wave gives me an old picasa name as my username (<company name>.<place of one of our conferences>@googlewave.com), I know there’s very little chance that I’ll get help from anywhere. The official channel to ask for help is their support forum, but it doesn’t seem that they reply to issues there. My message there from two weeks ago stands on it’s own, with no replies.

It’s the proposed revolution that will replace e-mail, and I can’t use it :(

Bad trend

This trend of Google not offering even basic support from dedicated people is a unfortunate development, that should be taken seriously by executives at Google, and dealt with at a very high level.

Launching new web services is easy, improving a services based on feedback is much harder. Google has not yet managed to crack that nut.

10 responses to “Google support gone wrong

  1. I have had an issue with Google Docs and I have successfully contacted Google on several occasions and all I can say is that Google staff are extremely polite, helpful and professional. I cannot fault them on their service whether it be via a post or via email!

  2. @Jason: Good to know that the Google Docs people are easy to get in contact with. Could it have something to do with that they have paid (enterprise) versions of Docs?

  3. Google is here in the Netherlands very helpful and most of the time they respond within 24-48 hours (on workdays).

    Sure most of the question were about paid services, but Emil do you think thy should provide lots of personal support for free services?
    I like to see Google developing great products instead of spending a lot of hours for support. ;)

    (You’re right feedburner s___ks since google own this service)

  4. YES, I’ve found it very hard to get support, and pretty much impossible to report bugs with google software.

    I guess they have some google groups? A lot of the time I can’t even find group though, and when I do, I tend to find the I don’t get a response in a reasonable time frame.

    I think by setting up those groups they are basically trying to get users to provide support for each other, which is kind of stupid, since their software has actual bugs in it that other users can’t fix.

    Which brings me to the other issue I’ve found is that a lot of google software is just plain buggy. Google docs is the worst offender here. Every single time I have used google docs, on various browsers, including chrome, I have run into some show stopping bug, like their editor crashing while I’m editing a document, or it just fails to start altogether. Docs seemed like a good idea, but I can’t use something so unreliable…

    I use a lot of google services, and some are great, but some of their software just plain *doesn’t work* and should never have been released. For instance, I tried subscribed links when it was released, and it was just plain broken.

  5. Good observations, Emil. This is my biggest complaint about Microsoft, too. I think it is important to keep existing services working well, and not so important to develop more and more and more.

    I am weary of the endless outlandish claims of some new and better product that is going to save the world, or change the world, or rock the world. Give me something that works, and make it work really well, and make it simpler and leaner all the time, and you will keep me as a customer forever.

    More is almost never better. Too many features, too many controls, make things difficult for no reason. It’s too bad most developers fail to understand that.

  6. I’ve never tried to contact Google’s support. I just took it if something wasn’t working right, they would just slap a “Beta” sticker on it so you couldn’t complain.

  7. I didn’t know that Google had support for anything. I know there are forums for help, because I used one when putting a Google map on my website.

  8. I am getting an “I’m Sorry” page when I access Google. It includes a Captcha which I have to decode. I have run malware and spybot. I deleted the Internet cookies. Didn’t fix it. How do I remove this condition?

    Please Reply to: bsgs2262@bellsouth.net

    Thank you,
    Bill

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