John Eklund, Pro Mach

A Tale of Two Phones

By John Eklund, Pro Mach | Permanent Link

The world loves an early adopter, but it’s looking like early adopters of the new Google Nexus One phone aren’t feeling the love from Google. Google launched the Nexus One on January 5 of this year – it’s first real venture into selling hardware directly to customers on the retail side of the business world, where customer service is crucial. And the early results haven’t been great.

The New York Times posted a great piece about this called “Hey Google, Anybody Home?” that details some of the main issues customers are facing:

  • They can’t call Google for help (there is no phone number for support – for a company selling a phone!)
  • Emails can take up to 2 to 3 days to get a response
  • Some customers have yet to hear from an actual person, just canned responses through email

The tough thing is for a lot of customers their cell phone is their only phone. So being down for a few days before you get support is really problematic. On top of that who do you turn to for support? T-Mobile currently handles the connectivity, HTC makes the phone and Google sells it – so who should be on the hook for support? It’s an ideal he said/she said finger pointing situation.

Now of course Google will get these problems resolved because they have the resources to do so – they are a large, extremely profitable company and they can make this issue go away. But in the short term the lesson is there – you have to be prepared to support it from day one. Google may have a little room for error here because their philosophy has always been more “launch early and iterate often” but while that works well for the software side of the business, the hardware side is a different story.

For a successful case study in that look no further than to Nexus One’s main competitor – the Apple iPhone – launched in June 2007. Apple was going out through a new channel – namely AT&T retail stores, and knew that their success hinged on a successful launch, roll out and customer experience. AT&T wasn’t exactly known for a stellar in-store experience at the time, so Apple and AT&T worked together to improve the AT&T retail experience for iPhone customers. They even put out a document to all AT&T retail stores on training just for the launch of the iPhone (see the 68 page PDF here). Granted, Apple’s main business is in selling hardware directly to consumers, but they knew that coming out of the gates they had to do everything they could to make sure the customer service experience was as good as the product. Google will get there, and the early technology adopters will pave the way for a better experience for the more mainstream consumers down the road.


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