Are you offering an online service or not?

exclamation markTwo things have happened today to make me wonder whether some people really ‘get’ the whole online thing.

First, my UK passport needs renewing. So off I go to the relevant website to renew it. There’s a nice link to renew my passport online, so I click it. But on reading I realise that I can’t actually renew my passport online. What I can do, is fill in an online form, that will then trigger a proceudre. This procedure seems to be to POST me the form I’ve filled in, along with a list of things I then need to POST back. So, not a ‘renew your passport online’ service at all then? And to make it worse, to receive the renewal form to a UK address takes up to a week! I may as well just walk into a post office and pick up a form myself!

Secondly, I have to register with an agency here in France, because I’m not far from having my baby now. So, I duly go to their website to register, fill in my details and find out that the passcode they have given me doesn’t work. I check it a few times, get locked out for ten minutes for trying more than 3 times, and am invited to ‘request a new password’. So I do. I click on the ‘request a new password’ link, fill in all my details again, and click on the submit button….. and get a nice page thanking me for requesting a new passcode, which will be POSTED to my home address and should arrive in 7-10 days.

Is it me?

Both of these things are meant to save me time and make my life more efficient, but they’ve actually just extended the time I have to spend sorting them out. They’ve pretended to be online services, but really they’re not. In both cases things would have been quicker had I gone to the relevant offices and sorted things out, rather than trying to do it online.

These aren’t the only instances I’ve come across recently of online entities making it difficult to do business with them. There was the website that only offered a postal address, no phone number or customer support email. And the online advertising company who wanted me to fax an order form, refusing to accept a scanned copy. And probably a myriad of others if I think about it properly.

Remember, if you’re offering an online sevrice, make things easy for your customer, not harder – or you could end up in someone’s blog for all the wrong reasons!
Creative Commons License photo credit: Patrick Hoesly

Need a customer support phone number for Google?

STOP PRESS – READ THIS FIRST!

OK, we get a lot of visits to this page. We also get a lot of phone calls to our office, and comments left below, the majority of which I remove for being abusive. So I’m afraid I’m going to shout: WE’RE NOT GOOGLE! All we’ve done is provide a customer support phone number for them – in the post, below. Please stop calling us and asking poor Leigh: “Are you Google?” or we’ll consider setting up a premium number…. thanks!

When you’re spending money with Google, it’s nice to know you can get hold of them, right?

Well they don’t make it easy, but there is a number that connects to their very helpful customer support department in Ireland. Make sure you know your Customer ID number (in the top right hand corner of your Adwords account), then give them a call on 0845 358 0038 – you have to press 2 and then enter your ID number once connected.

They’re very good at calling back when they say they will, and can sort most problems very quickly.

[Edited to add 14/08/09 – an email in today tells us: “Your Google phone number has been very good but they have changed the option 2 to enter your ID and then give a recorded message to got to the web help menu. “]

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