We often sing the praises of Google for its role in the development of the modern day commercial Internet and really one of the only well-functioning areas of the current economy. They deserve a lot of credit for creating an ecosystem where SMBs (small and medium businesses) can get free tools to run their business (Gmail, Google Docs, etc.), as well as one of the premier online advertising outlets in the world today for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
The trouble is that they are falling victim to an increasing reality of our modern world which is that for every algorithmic and automated action there is an opposite and often very intense human reaction. In other words, we’re not robots—so stop treating us like we are. So here goes my plea to the Googlers of Mountain View (especially Marissa Mayer who heads up the whole local effort) to show us your human side.
Thank you Google for all of your good work but now it’s time to grow up.
The Internet is more than just you but you are still one of the most important cogs in the machinery. I have a suggestion for how you can innovate moving into the future. Here it goes. Use actual people to support your local products. Not just any people. People that are trained to assist. Right now you are not doing it and you obviously don’t get the importance of it (maybe because your real leader, Algo the Magnificent, hasn’t said to?).
Take this exchange that was recorded by local Internet marketing professional, Mike Blumenthal at his blog (which is a must read for local Internet marketers).
Late last week, I decided to call a Google Tags rep for the other business and express the desire to get a tag if the listing could be unmerged (true not just a lame effort to get support). Here is a transcript of the conversation:
Me: I called as I have a client that wants a Tag but has merged Places listing with his neighbor.
The rep, after a deep, deep sigh said to me: It is not easily fixed. I used to jump through hoops but now I suggest deleting the listing completely and starting it over.
Me: Delete the listing? Doesn’t that cause other problems like a loss of rank?
The Rep: It usually comes back after a few days.
Me: Do you see this problem frequently?
Rep: Yes, and to be honest, it is best to just delete the listing completely and start over. However, when you delete the listing you must follow a two step process prior to reentering the record
1) Remove this listing from Google Maps.
Your listing will no longer appear on Google Maps, but will continue to display in your Google Places account. This listing will be removed after you verify via PIN
2) Remove this listing from my Google Places account.
Select this option if you mistakenly associated the listing with your account. This listing may continue to display on Google Maps if provided by other sources.
That’s it. A heavy sigh and the war-torn voice of a sales rep who is playing customer service rep more than selling.
What Mike did and has suggested to others to do, is actually pay the $25 a month for Tags on your Google Place Page listing just so you can call the 800 number and talk to a person! Good thinking on his part but I sure hope this is not the master plan for generating revenue over at the good ship Google. Say it ain’t so, Google, say it ain’t so.
Look, you have a ridiculous amount of cash on the books and you tried to buy Groupon with some of it. The speculation is that you wanted to get their people power as much as their deal power. Why? Because they have feet on the street and phone reps that constitute a real connection to the business world that you want to work with on a local basis.
You’ve heard of these people with the small shops who still do business with people in person, right? They need some kind of human interaction from Google to help them spend money with you! Try to remember, Mr. Algo, when people were involved…
You have a chance to really innovate that few if any do in this day and age. You could take the electronic face off your company (which might offset some of the off-the-wall things your CEO says) and put in place the Internet era’s version of the ultimate in customer service machines.
You can use your smart people to develop systems that correctly route calls to people who can actually answer questions without having to give away the rights to your first born. You could create places where real people respond to real people to make real progress with real problems and eventually make very real money.
As a result, you could employ A LOT of people in a day and age where that is not happening so much. The positive PR would go through the roof! You could make Facebook look like Dr. Evil because you would not be just using people, you would be using them AND giving them income! No longer would you be the faceless borg that goes around assimilating things to carry out its master plan. Instead you could be the huge Internet giant that could! The one that could bridge the gap and put the human being back in interactions!
There is so much more to discuss but the bottom line is that until you get people (with red blood flowing through real veins rather than bits and bytes flowing through wires) who care and are housed in the US, (please don’t forget that one!) your growth will be limited in the local space. As a result, more people will look to poke holes in your offerings because they will want you to fail.
Personally, I don’t want you to fail. I would actually like to see you succeed well beyond the your current results. Why? Because your work creates work for me and for many, many others also.
My concern is, However, that you are going to stub your toe just like every other corporate giant has, and it will be due to hubris. You won’t listen to the little guys who actually line your pockets with money from your cash for clicks cash cow. If you stumble and lose your way, there will be much more fallout than when Big Blue or even Microsoft hit the wall.
So what do you say Google? Are you going to put a human face on your deal or are you just going to have people someday say that Google’s poor algorithm was rode hard and put away wet?
I’ll let you know if I hear back from Google in any way, but I may have to be revived if there is a voice to respond to.