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January 9, 2010 8:29:28.829

Google is learning that selling a product directly brings with it some obligations: support:

But Google is selling the phone directly to end-users. That means many users are turning to it first, and the search giant doesn't have the kind of customer support that mobile-phone users are accustomed to. Google appears to be only accepting e-mail customer queries, to which it pledges to reply in one to two days -- far too long, say most people who are complaining online.

This all reminds me of something that happened in the Smalltalk space years ago. There was an enterprise solution for a particular niche that was being sold as a "consulting solution" - meaning, when you bought the software, you bought a few consultants (at cost) to install it, tweak it, and get it running in your environment. It was a small but lucrative business, and one of the larger consulting outfits decided that they wanted to jump into the space - so they bought the software. They didn't buy the smaller firm outright though, so they got none of the expertise. They decided that they wanted to just "put the software in a box" and sell it as a regular product.

That's when they learned that vendors have things like support staffs, 800 call in lines, dedicated email support (this was long before online forums popped up). I recall a bunch of us at ParcPlace (that's how long ago this was) snickering at all of this, because, working for a vendor, this was all pretty obvious to us.

Fast forward to today, and Google is having the same lesson pounded into it. They want to get by with the level of email support they've been offering for things like Google Reader. The services they've offered to the public in the past have been free, so having slow turn around email has been sufficient. When you start selling a real product, for real money, that people wll naturally need some level of support on - the rules all change.

I wonder how Google will deal with this: they can either stop selling direct, or they can add a real support group. It should be fun to watch...

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posted by James Robertson

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