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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, Amazon.com (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.