What to do when technology fails?

Post ImageLike most people, I rely on technology all day, every day. I consider myself a fairly heavy text messaging user (I send almost 1000 texts a month) and I always have Outlook and Opera open. Oh and instant messaging, though I find myself using that less. Usually things work great, but sometimes things go wrong.

Take today for example. Last night after the movie my text messaging appeared to stop working. I couldn’t send or receive. This is a big deal for me but since it was almost 2 AM, I figured I’d see if it sorted itself out over night. Turns out it did for the most part, but service today has been slow and sporadic. It still isn’t working correctly.

Also last night, Twitter had some unscheduled downtime. Not the end of the world, but I definitely noticed it. And for some reason, Twitter doesn’t recognize symbols (like @ or $) from my phone properly. No one has responded to my tech support request.

Then there was Facebook. Around 8:30 this morning I tried to get into Facebook – no dice. I don’t ever recall having issues with Facebook, but for whatever reason it was down earlier today. I am guessing it was a small glitch of some sort, and it probably didn’t affect everyone.

What’s common between the three? They are consumer facing applications. They are free (well text messaging isn’t, but it’s dirt cheap at $10/mo for unlimited). Generally speaking, consumer facing + free means that support is either not very good or non-existent. Furthermore, there’s not really any agreement on the part of the service to ensure that it performs well and is reliable.

I suppose that’s fine for unimportant communication, but what happens when we use them for something more critical? It used to be that there was a clear distinction between corporate and consumer – lately I think the line is fading. I use text messaging, Twitter, and Facebook for both purposes.

I don’t know how, but eventually this problem is going to need to be addressed.

UPDATE: Apparently the Facebook issue this morning was related to power.

Telus Mobility Impresses

Post ImageAs you may know, my mobile phone provider is Telus Mobility. I have used them for years and for the most part, I’ve been content. Not excited, not angry, just content. I did write about some text message troubles I had back in January though, and noted:

…there was absolutely no wait time to talk to someone (minus the stupid speech recognition menu which took a couple minutes). This is a BIG improvement for Telus…normally you have to wait forever!

On Friday, I had another somewhat similar experience. My text messaging was not working as expected, so I called support. Right away I talked to a friendly lady who told me they were experiencing troubles in Alberta and B.C. with text message delivery. She connected me to network services anyway, to see if my problem was something more.

After about 15 minutes of waiting to talk to someone, I gave up. I hoped the problem was simply what the first lady had told me – temporary delays. Turns out she was right – my messages started working again late on Friday, and I started receiving a bunch of messages yesterday and today that were not delivered over the weekend.

As I walked in the door tonight around 7 PM though, it got even better! My cell rang and when I answered I was greeted by a recorded message from Telus Mobility. Turns out they were very sorry for the delay I had experienced Friday, and to apologize, they credited $5 to my account.

That’s the kind of thing that will make me a happy customer instead of a content customer. They went the extra mile. Well done Telus Mobility!

Google is missing that human side

Post ImageTough times for Google right now. They were called out in BusinessWeek recently for creating lots of hype with few results. Scoble noted that they were completely missing from Gnomedex. Even I’ve made mention in the past that Google seems confused about themselves. And despite the fact that they only have one revenue stream, have grown too big too fast, and have dozens of other problems, I think a really important one is that Google seems to entirely lack a human side. An email I got from Google Checkout’s support team today really confirmed it for me.

I have read many a blog post citing Google’s complete inability to respond to emails or support requests, but I figured I’d try my luck and send one anyway. I emailed Google Checkout support, asking when Canadian merchants would be able to use the service (as we’re currently unable to). I wasn’t asking if, but rather when. This is the response I got:

At this time, only merchants with a United States address and bank account can integrate and process transactions through Google Checkout. We look forward to making the service more widely available in the near future.

Compare that with the help page on their website that I had already read:

At this time, only merchants with a U.S. address and bank account can process transactions through Google Checkout. We look forward to offering more options in the future.

Thanks Google, but I can read! Now to be honest, I wasn’t expecting a date or anything, but that’s not the point. This response could very well have come from an automated system (and who knows, maybe it was) as only the last sentence has been changed. And that is what is wrong with Google.

Google needs a human side. They need someone to maintain a regular blog, talking about everything, not just Google (a la Scoble). They need support people who can type a human response, something like “Hey, we love Canada, and oh btw, Happy Canada Day! We’re doing our best to bring you Google Checkout, so stay tuned!” They need real people to help launch and talk about new products. They need to become part of the community, they need to join the conversation, they need to act like humans instead of robots.

Microsoft and Yahoo! are so much better at this than Google. With all those smart people at Google, you’d think they would realize it’s better to participate?