Google Customer Support Surprise: Phone Reps Handling 10,000 Calls A Week From 60 Countries

Google has long received mixed-to-negative criticism for its customer service — or lack thereof. But Francoise Brougher is changing all that. Perhaps the least well-known senior executive outside Google, the VP of Global Advertising and Product Operations has quietly built an impressive telephone customer support organization for Google AdWords advertisers.

Telephone support for AdWords was first announced earlier this year in April and it saw some coverage. However since that time Google has been silent about it. I spoke to Brougher roughly a week ago and was surprised to hear how large and sophisticated the operation has become.

A Thousand Reps Servicing 60 Countries

Google has invested heavily in building an organization that can address calls from 60 countries around the world. The company has more than 1,000 Google-employed customer service people divided between email and phone support. The phone reps are now handling “more than 10,000 calls a week,” according to Brougher. The reps are located in several regional call centers around the world.

Google is learning a great deal about its customers through these phone calls. This may seem an obvious point but it’s giving Google more insight into advertiser needs and issues than in the past. And many of these insights can be used by marketing and product development people. This offers a kind of virtuous cycle or loop between customer care and marketing and product development. Too many companies treat their customer care organizations purely as a “cost center” and fail to see customer service as a strategic asset with a wide range of organizational benefits.

Brougher understands very clearly the benefit of this organization for Google. She lobbied the executive team to make significant investments up front that now appear to be paying off.

“People Like to Talk”

One of the surprises for Google is the nature of the inquiries it’s receiving on the phone. Google has had email-based support for AdWords for a long time but the calls coming in are qualitatively different. Calls are more expansive, friendly and less pointed. “People like to talk,” Brougher joked. Beyond this, she explained, calls coming from different countries are also quite different from one another, reflecting various cultural differences.

Google is encountering numerous first time small business advertisers who want education and help. (Roughly 20 percent of the calls Google is receiving are from new advertisers.) With telephone calls Google is in a much better position to provide small business support than with email and online tools exclusively.

Brougher is also the one who leads the group that manages AdWords reseller relationships, Google’s network of publishers and partners that sell to small businesses. As with Google’s move into direct small business sales (Offers, AdWords Express) — the customer support reps don’t do any outbound sales — the creation of this customer care organization reflects a “cultural shift” and maturation within Google.

I asked why Google didn’t simply outsource customer service to a third party, as so many US companies do. She said that Google is able to deliver a much higher level of quality and service by having all the reps in house.

Positive ROI from Customer Service

Beyond the fact of its existence and size, most impressive perhaps is the rigor with which Google is tracking the ROI of its customer service investment. I asked Brougher about ROI because service is often a “fuzzy” and intangible thing that doesn’t map directly to the bottom line.

She outlined several ways in which Google uses data and analytics to track the efficacy of its individual reps and overall customer service effort. According to her, Google is definitely seeing a positive ROI and spending lift from advertisers touched by Google AdWords customer service.

Postscript: Google contacted me to clarify that the 1,000 reps include email support people. Accordingly, they’re not all dedicated to phone support.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Google: Employees | Google: Other | Google: Outside US | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://twilog.org/dpgj 最终冰器红豆

    Hardly understand what does it means to handle 10000 phone calls in a week since Google is not a phone maker (yet) and is it reflecting there are some too problems with the Android phone. So with this isolated figure we can only tell they do have customer services and rather busy. Period.

  • fjpoblam

    In Google Groups, since 2003, I’ve reported several problems with *free* Google products (including Google Apps for Your Domain). Or, as the phrasing would have it, I’ve “asked about” the problems.

    On rare occasions, a purportedly official Google employee has weighed in. The response has far more often than not been on the order of “Thanks for noticing that. We’ll get back to you.”

    I look forward to the day when Google offers something more substantial than Google Groups in the way of customer support for its products. I’m not holding my breath.

  • Solomon Capistrano

    I read this in total dismay. Advertising companies, such as Google, care less than nothing about customer service.

    The automation of adsense and adwords in fact is meant to eliminate the whole idea of customer service.

    The volume that Google enables is not serviceable in any reasonable way by human beings. Its nice to say they take some calls, 10K a week is really not that much, and since Google doesnt actually DO ANYTHING in response to those calls, its just a tele-friend arrangement where some lucky perosn who found a phone number gets to throw their complaint at a non responding wall for 2 minutes.

    Accepting calls does not equal custeomer service.

    Actually I think a better, more honest result would be for google to never answer the phone, because then they wouldnt be lying to the .01% who do get their calls answered that they will do something for them.

    The ship has no master folks. Dont bullshit me. This is a joke.

  • Solomon Capistrano

    We dont make mistakes. If we do, its just our way. Deal with it.

  • steven654

    Not sure what the news is here. I’ve had a customer service phone number for Adwords since at least 2008.

    Also, I can’t say I’ve got any complaints with the call handlers either (the Ireland-based ones), they’re always well-informed, friendly and helpful. Never had to wait longer than a minute to get through to someone. Every single time I’ve spoken to someone they’ve resolved my problem, if not there and then over the phone then via email after the call once they’ve had a chance to raise it with the technical staff.

    The issues I do have with Adwords is that the system now contains so many new features that it has become completely unstable and unpredictable. Over the years I’ve seen an intuitive and user-friendly advertising tool be reduced to a complicated nightmare that is best avoided, and that’s a shame. Things like Seller Ratings and Ad Extensions – with all their quirks – will make the system topple over before long.

    I actually sympathise with the Adwords customer service team as they’ll be dealing with an increasing number of problems coming their way from confused customers because of Google’s insistence on adding unnecessary new features.

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