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The Nexus One has generated a lot of buzz over the past week for a number of good reasons. Google's foray into the competitive smartphone market is arguably one of the company's boldest yet.
Google may deliver success with the Nexus One but its direct-to-consumer sales model, which some claim could disrupt mobile carriers, is also drawing attention to Google's customer service limitations.
IDG News Service is reporting that the Nexus One support forums are filling up fast with questions from customers on everything from orders to technical problems.
Because the Nexus One is being sold directly by Google, customers who need help have to deal with Google. That is quickly becoming a problem. The reason? Google only provides support via email and makes it clear that responses to support requests could take up to two days. In the mobile market, where customers are used to being able to call up their carriers, that may not be good enough, especially for customers experiencing technical troubles.
So some of them are turning to their carriers and HTC, the company that manufactures the Nexus One for Google. But that only exacerbates the customer service nightmare. Nancy Gohring of IDG details:
One customer going by the name Roland78 said he was transferred between T-Mobile and HTC four times, spending a total of one-and-a-half hours on the phone with customer service. "T-Mobile also said Google hasn't provided them with any support documents for the phone. Welcome to direct sales Google!” he wrote.
Another using the name SouthFlGuy was also sent back and forth between HTC and T-Mobile after finding no help from Google. "I guess I was under the wrong impression but I thought Google would handle the service on the phone," he wrote.
Several people on one thread regarding poor 3G performance on the phone report being told by HTC customer service people that the Nexus One doesn’t support 3G, although the phone does. Another got an e-mail response in five hours from Google suggesting that the user try restarting the phone to see if that solves the problem.
Needless to say, these customer experiences throw into question Google's Nexus One strategy. Sure, the sales model is intriguing. And the product does look impressive. But consumers are really, really demanding when it comes to their mobile service. Carriers take a lot of brow beatings because of this. As such, one has to wonder if Google truly recognizes that success in the space will likely require the total package, not just a well-designed smartphone.
Of course, Google's customer service shortcomings certainly aren't a surprise to everyone. Critics of some of Google's enterprise offerings frequently question the company's ability and willingness to support its products. Will the Nexus One motivate Google to put these questions to rest, or will a search for 'customer service' return no results?
Fortunately, Google knows it has to improve. "We have to get better at customer service," Google VP of Engineering Andy Rubin has admitted. He's right, especially given the company's plan to target the enterprise market next. But only time will tell whether Google's talk about improving customer service is more than just lip service.
Photo: Mat Honan via Flickr.