Sunday, October 05, 2008

Google Customer Service for GMail Appalling

I almost didn't read this article because my primary email address is serviced by the University's Information Services department and I know the people there personally so assistance with a locked email account is just a phone call away. But, I recently switched my personal business ISP from a local provider to Qwest when I was finally offered DSL in my neighborhood two weeks ago. I already had a Gmail account so I simply changed all of my Paypal widgets to email me at my Gmail address and didn't bother to set up my email account through Windows Live - Qwest's email provider.

However, after reading this article, I guess I better get my email account through Qwest set up after all. Quite honestly, I had never given it much thought as to how to resolve a locked account with Goggle before although their policy of no live support does not surprise me. Customer service is an area that technology companies have had a cavalier attitude about for years although it was not always so. Somehow, they don't see the disconnect between shipping buggy products to market then refusing to put tools in place to assist customers who have problems with these products. This trend became even more pronounced when products went from desk top applications to online applications. No one, it seems, wants to really talk to their customers - they just want a valid credit card number. But, I would expect more from Google. Google has really deep pockets - thanks to millions of us customers - and surely can afford to offer live support for account access problems. After all, having a problem with your email access has a cascading effect with all of your other online activities. If you can't login to one of your other services and request a password reset, they mail it to your email address!

LOGGING on to Gmail or other e-mail service has become a routine of daily life, completed without a thought. What would you do, however, if you woke up tomorrow, plugged in your user name and password as you always do, but then received an unfamiliar message: “User name and password do not match”?

If you’re a Gmail user, what you’ll want to do after a few more unsuccessful, increasingly frantic attempts is to speak with a Google customer support representative, post haste. But that’s not an option. Google doesn’t offer a toll-free number and a live person to resolve the ordinary user’s problems.

Discussion forums abound with tales of woe from Gmail customers who have found themselves locked out of their account for days or even weeks. They were innocent victims of security measures, which automatically suspend access if someone tries unsuccessfully to log on repeatedly to an account. The customers express frustration that they can’t speak with anyone at Google after filling out the company’s online forms and waiting in vain for Google to restore access to their accounts.

Tom Lynch, a software entrepreneur who lives near Austin, Tex., discovered early last month that he had been locked out of both Gmail accounts he used; he had no idea why. He received boilerplate instructions for recovering his accounts that did not apply to his particular circumstances, which included his failing to maintain a non-Gmail e-mail account as a back-up. He said it took him four weeks, including the use of a business directory and talking with anyone he could find at Google, before he succeeded in having service restored.

A Google spokesman placed the blame on Mr. Lynch, saying he did not follow Google’s guidelines. The spokesman characterized Mr. Lynch’s ordeal as a praiseworthy illustration of Google’s tough security: “We have had no cases of falsely recovered accounts.”

Google does provide phone support to Gmail customers who subscribe to Google Apps Premier Edition, which costs $50 annually and includes larger storage quotas and other benefits. Customers who use the advertising-supported version of Gmail, however, must rely solely on what Google calls “self-service online support.” - NY Times

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