Google Lowers The Bar On Customer Service Yet Again

Can Google customer service get with the times? For the second year running Fortune magazine has named Google (GOOG) as the #1 place to work for in America. Their article last year states that Google “sets the standard for Silicon Valley: free meals, swimming spa, and free doctors onsite. Engineers can spend 20% of time on independent projects. No wonder Google gets 1,300 résumés a day.” Now, I don’t know about you, but to me numbers like that mean Google doesn’t have to simply settle when hiring employees… they literally can pick and choose from the cream of the crop who does and who does not work for them.

In fact, according to Google themselves, their goal is to hire people who are “as passionate about their lives as they are about their work“:

… regardless of where we are, we nurture an invigorating, positive environment by hiring talented, local people who share our commitment to creating search perfection and want to have a great time doing it. Googlers thrive in small, focused teams and high-energy environments, believe in the ability of technology to change the world, and are as passionate about their lives as they are about their work. – Google Jobs

So why is it a company that concerned about the quality of their employees can’t seem find anyone decent for their customer service department?

If we were discussing deep complicated technical questions then I could understand a bit of confusion here and there. However, in my experience the reps at Google AdSense and AdWords seem to have problems with some of the most basic concepts of communication. I wrote a post about a month and a half ago about another of my recent communications with AdSense reps that went nowhere (wrote them again, btw, they are still ignoring me). This time, it’s AdWords.

Let me be clear on this, the issue itself is not that important. I am not losing copious amounts of money, the Internet will not come crashing down if the question isn’t answered, and no one’s life is at stake here. However, for a couple of years now the replies that Google customer service sends back have established a solid pattern of non-resolution regardless of how important the questions asked actually are. This week I received an email from AdWords that opened with the following:

We noticed that you haven’t shown your AdWords ads in a while. The Google AdWords Team wants to help you make the most of your advertising dollars, so…

Now, since I had just ran one of my AdWords campaigns not long ago, for my experiment having to do with the Google keyword tool, this concerned me a little. It hadn’t been “a while”, as they were claiming, it had only been 2 weeks. So, I wrote them back a one line reply, asking what they were talking about:

What’s this about? I ran an AdWords campaign last week… – Me

They replied today. I looked at what they sent, got a little angry, and almost replied back immediately. However, I decided first to make sure that it wasn’t my fault, that I hadn’t somehow perhaps been unclear in what I was asking. I asked 3 friends what their interpretation of what my question had actually been, sort of an early morning IQ test. I showed each of them the same portion of the original email I showed above, as well as my question I replied back to AdWords with, and then asked, “In your honest opinion, what was my question to them?” The responses I got back were:

wtf did you send me an email saying i haven’t advertised in a while, when i just did. – Donna Fontenot, Business Coach

why are you sending me this email, when i have run adwords recently? – Li Evans, Director of Internet Marketing

Your question was why are [they] saying your account isn’t active, when it actually is. – Melanie Nathan, Director of SEO/SEM/SMM

As you can see clearly see, none of them are trained Google AdWords customer service representatives. They did not go through intensive schooling designed to teach how to answer complex questions on how AdWords is engineered to make the world a better place. Yet, despite their complete lack of employee orientation, each of them was in fact able to correctly interpret my short question.

The actual AdWords rep who replied, however, was apparently unable to do so:

Thank you for your email. I understand you are concerned about an email that you received from AdWords support saying that your ads have not been shown on Google for some time. You received this email since all of your campaigns are either paused or deleted. Please note, your ads won’t show on Google if your campaigns have been paused or deleted. – Neha Verma, The Google AdWords Team

It’s as if Google wrote an Eliza style program to handle their customer service questions, and almost got it right. Pick out key phrases from the emails, and see if there is a matching canned response. The problem, of course, is that the reply actually came from a real person, hired by a company that professes to employ people who are “talented”, and are “passionate… about their work.”

I have had both MSN and Yahoo employees call me on the phone when I was having an issue before. GoDaddy has done that also, as has Hostgator. MSN has “How did I do?” type questionnaires that they ask you to fill out after having a question dealt with. Hostgator even has a rating system on their trouble tickets, asking you to rate the helpfulness of each and every answer. Maybe Google needs to seriously consider collecting individualized feedback on their customer service representatives. At 1,300 resumes a day, it really shouldn’t be that hard to find people who actually understand what the customers are asking.

15 thoughts on “Google Lowers The Bar On Customer Service Yet Again”

  1. I’ve gotten a couple calls from Yahoo over really minor request and was a bit wierded out by the experience (especially since the person on the call wasn’t particularly remarkable). I think low level customer service drones exist in most service businesses…the key is how well the higher-ups help you when you reach out to them.

  2. the key is how well the higher-ups help you when you reach out to them.

    Todd, I disagree on that actually. 99.9%+ of Google’s customers would never be able to get to a higher up, from what I can tell.

  3. Its quite a relief to find that my company is not the only one to find Google Advertising staff absolutely incompetent.

    My company has been dealing with a team of AdWords optimization specialists over the past 7 months, and well, lets just say that their behavior, suggestions, and unbelievable coming from a company that makes all of its money on advertising. They have incited the opposite of their intended effect — we can’t wait to cut our Google AdWords spending.

    The three different groups (oh yes, they reassign you every quarter to a new team of people who can ignore all of your needs and guidelines) we have dealt with have gotten progressively worse — my service reps from Verizon and AT&T put them to shame.

    It is absolutely unbelievable that these individuals are allowed to prosper at a company that, on the whole, does a very good job of putting their customers first (or at least near the top of the list). In our case, every one of their actions has been to their benefit over ours.

    -Name Withheld for obvious reasons

  4. I had some problems with advanced linking. Customer service of Google AdWords answered there is no problem with their system. The employee didn’t notice the problem and didn’t advise me how to correct the links. I was told to check my links if proper. The links were proper, but after addition of google indicators in URL – my links didn’t work properly. The links needed simple modification. Of course the one(chosen from 1,300 resumes) couldn’t help with the basic issue.

  5. Hi,

    I too find that they sometimes send pretty useless replies.

    Often they simply cite a part of the online help. Usually that is exactly the part of the help that I did not understand and wanted to clarify.

    It’s a trend several big companies have: instead of actually answering the precise question you asked, they send you an excerpt of their help files that is ‘somewhat related’ to the topic of your question – but your actual question remains unanswered.


  6. I did a start up marketing campaign….yes, a newbie at Google Adwords stuff… I put money in a pre-pay account and hit the enter button and immediate got a screen that said my account had been “suspended” due to lack of funds. So I emailed them and asked what did the mean my account was Suspended due to a lack of funds? I just put $600 into pre-pay and they accepted it. What happended to my $600? That was on 2 Aug … its late nite on 5 Aug and I still have yet to hear from Google Adwords Reps.

  7. Good customer service is vital within any organisation, and surely an operation with the resources that Google has available to it should be setting new standards for others to aspire to? As it is, they are failing to even match the efforts of Joe Bloggs and co – “a one man, one phone, no internet” business!

    As for the calibre of their staff, well I just choke with laughter at the thought of that. Google are so obsessed with which university their candidates attended and the grades they received that they fail to notice that these graduate recruits cannot understand or deal with people. Worse still, a great number of them evidently cannot even read their own emails!

    Clearly a lot of Google’s bad points are rooted in the fact that its company policies and procedures are too idealistic – formulated by people who have probably never worked in a “real world” situation let alone run their own businesses. They think they are still at university and neither know nor care how their black and white ideas can affect people beyond their padded clusters.

    Google is now ten so its definitely time for them to grow up and start showing their clients a little more respect.

  8. In one of the sections mentioned on this blog, i read a note by a guy who had an unatisfactory response from Google ad-word representative. But it is highly un professional to mention the name of the person who attended to the query. One must remember that the representatives are extremely courteous in their reply and even if they could not answer your query as you would ve expected the least you can do is not publish their identities on a public domain like this.

    Each of us have a learning curve and are not masters of the business when new to a particular process. I request you to refrain from revealing the identities of people.

  9. On the contrary, I think that a week or two is equal to a ‘while’. But more importantly, why don’t you and your other SEO friends who find Google’s customer service so ‘poor’, try using some other means of online advertising apart from AdWords. I am not an AdWords fanboy but I know where I get advertising and good customer support as well.

    And the truth is each and everyone person who sends that email can give most of the SEO guys in the real world a run for their money if they decide to have their own start ups. Lets just be happy that their knowledge is used to guide us, mind you, guide us to better advertising experience rather than killing us in our own field of work.

    And its because of their employees with enviable ‘University’ backgrounds that we have such an amazing internet experience everyday.

  10. Each of us have a learning curve and are not masters of the business when new to a particular process.

    Dilip, I have no idea how you managed to miss the entire point of this post, but bottom line is that Google should not be hiring people who are not experts.

    I want to see the damn ad for customer service reps that Google put out that actually says, “No experience required.”

  11. I too have done battle with the Google Adwords bureaucracy, and been astonished at the lameness of their customer service.

    My problems started when I discovered that my Adwords campaign had been disabled by Google. Mind you I did not find this out because of an email they sent me, or that my adwords Campaign management page had any indication.

    No– I discoverd this while noodling about exploring the gazillion tools Google provides for its advertisers. I discovered my ads were disabled by drilling down about eight levels, and then typing in a search phrase I would expect a local customer would type in. The tools said my ad would not get displayed, click here to find out why: and on clicking there, I found out the truth.

    Luckily I have a local business which gets most new customers through word of mouth. The bad part is that because almost none of my new business arrives because of Google, I had not noticed my ads had been disabled for a month.

    Well at least this hurts Google as much as me. If they don’t display my ads, they don’t get paid. Seems like bad business practice to me to not assist your customers.

    Now it turns out that they had disabled my ad for two reasons: because they thought my web site was offline (it must have been unreachable when their robot came by the last time) AND I had violated some else’s trademark.

    So here is where the story goes completely off the rails. I find the on-line customer service complaint form which explicitly says to be as descriptive and complete as possible to describe your problems.

    Well I guess they didn’t really mean that complete, because I am wanting action/help on four different problems, but their online form limits number of characters typed! I’m only half-way through explaining problem two, its stops accepting input.

    I think fine, and open a second customer issue, and type the second two.

    I won’t go into the details, but I will say this, I never delete email. It goes in my trash and stays there. I use a Gmail account, so if the email got hung up at the provider end, google only has themselves to blame. So I am convinced they never sent a warning.

    I still don’t know why my campaign management console did not display a warning, but the service rep dismissed my claim there too.

    The ‘stop order’ for my ad went away silently after a day or two.

    The trademark issue block also went away, eventually, although Google never told me why or whose trademark they believed I was violating. Again, not a single email letting me know that they had resolved in my favor.

  12. Google has no customer service. I have set up campaign but Iam unable to activate the account. I prompts you to add your billing information but based on the instructions it is not possible. I’m sure it is something very simple that could be cleared up with a quick call. Alas, no one to call. I’ve never had this much trouble trying to pay for something. I guess I’m on to Yahoo. BA

  13. The have email support. But i feel that it is worse service. I have deposited 2000 INR to google account. But not credited to my adword account. When I asked through their email support, I got answer for how to earn more click 🙂 what a joke from google. I dont know where did go my money? When I called in customer care number I got answer that they are not able to do anything in my issue. Then what is the purpose of the customer care?

  14. We spend $900/month with Google. After spending time with “online help” I couldn’t get a question answered. I called the number they publish for help from a real person. That person told me he could only help set up a new account and nobody at Google could answer may question. He then hung up on me. I’m angry and hurt and seriously considering whether rewarding Google with over $10,000/year is really good business. Wow.

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