Google Gets Taken To Woodshed Over Support

Earlier this week, an anonymous poster to the blog of software developer Joel Spolsky offered a cautionary tale about the potential difficulties of using Google Apps in a corporate environment. The poster -- a network administrator -- didn't have a problem with the performance of Google Apps, but rather with Google's automated support system and the virtual impossibility of getting answers from Google over the phone.

The poster's company had been using the free version of Google Apps on one of its intranet sites for more than a year when the time came to renew the company's custom domain name. The poster paid for the renewal via Google Checkout, but due to a technical glitch, Google never relayed that to the domain registrar, and so the subscription lapsed.

When the poster attempted to contact Google to resolve the issue, he was unable to do so using the company's automated Web-based support system. The poster then decided to upgrade to the $50 per user/per year business version of Google Apps, which includes phone support, but was unable to figure out how to proceed. After once again failing to contact Google by phone, the poster eventually settled the issue with his domain registrar.

A Google spokesperson told the domain renewal issue affected a very small number of domain names and has been resolved.

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What's ironic about this situation is that Google actually sees phone support as an area of opportunity for VARs. Google will continue phone support for Google Apps, but is encouraging channel partners to handle Google Apps support calls from their customers as a value-added service, the spokesperson told

"Phone support for paying end users is exactly the kind of value-added service we expect many of our resellers will provide. There is definitely an opportunity to provide higher touch support in this area," the spokesperson said.

The model of resellers being the first line of support for end users is a common one, but the real question is whether Google will provide enough support to channel partners for issues that require escalation, says Michael Cocanower, president of solution provider ITSynergy.

Given Google's brief but lackluster channel track record, Cocanower says that's unlikely. "This is exactly the type of thing we had anticipated when we decided to move away from Postini after Google acquired them," Cocanower said.

"The question is, how long will it take for Google to realize it has to be a more channel-friendly company?"

This article was updated Friday, January 30 at 11:18 PT to correct the source of the complaint against Google