Pick a Role Model, Google!

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Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is running into a minefield after introducing the Nexus One smartphone. When you buy a $500 phone like the unlocked Nexus, you expect a certain level of customer service. You know, like white-gloves, mint-on-the-pillow, valet-parking customer service. But Google doesn't even have a phone number for tech support.

The online support forums are swimming in diatribes about the lack of a personal touch for a product that surely deserves one. If you buy an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone, you can go to the Apple store in your neighborhood mall and talk to a Genius about any issues you might have. Buy a Nexus One, and you're shuffled into an online troubleshooting tool or a bunch of anonymous email addresses. Or you can go bother hardware maker HTC or service provider T-Mobile instead. No phone lines, no instant chat sessions, no personal touch at all.

I understand that Google is a technology company first and a retailer six hundred and fifty-eighth or so, but I do expect better social judgment even from a total egghead. If Google wants to make any impact on a phone market saturated with iPhones, Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) BlackBerrys, and Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) semi-PDAs (fine ... Pres), the company needs to understand how to make a better impression on the retail customers it has close to no experience with.

Pull a page from the Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) playbook, perhaps. The movie rental pioneer was founded by math major and computer scientist Reed Hastings, but modeled its operations after what it considered the best-of-breed online retailer, (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , from the start.

I'm not saying that Google should remold its entire operations in the mold of Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) or anything, but it would behoove the Big G to pick a retailing role model and see what it’s doing right in customer service for retail products. Heck, Amazon springs to mind again.

Whose customer-service model should Google carbon-copy and then modify? Or is the company doing the right thing by taking a hands-off approach to tech support? Let me know in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Netflix and Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Nokia is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple,, and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2010, at 5:33 PM, marv08 wrote:

    Well, smartphones are pretty complex devices and buyers do have little patience. Telephone support is a must, especially since this device may be used in situations where it is the only mean to connect to the Internet - if it does not work, accessing self-service forums or email (or waiting 3 days for an answer) is not an option, especially since not every buyer is a techie and Google's forum software is a travesty.

    What they should copy? Well, look at customer satisfaction ratings for relevant products and you will see that those with domestic hotlines and outlets normally fare best. When my company received one DOA iPhone (one out of 90), it took one single phone call. The replacement unit arrived the next morning, together with a free return label for the defective unit. Google needs three times longer to even read a complaint.

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