This post highlights my interaction with the AdWords support staff in regards to a client issue I encountered last week upon the launch of a time-sensitive campaign.
As the Google AdWords product has grown, so has the level of support for it. Reps will frequently reach out to clients — much to my displeasure which is for another blog post — plus you can email or call in support for campaigns if you experience issues. My experience with support over the last six years has been average; we had one good agency reps and six or seven poor ones. When I have to call in any issues, my customer support experience has been at an okay grade, but nothing great. I had not called in quite some time and we currently don’t have any rep assigned to us as an agency — to my knowledge.
The purpose of this post is to ask the question — if Google is such a highly sought after place to work (2 million people per year apply), why does the AdWords support team seem to perform at such a low level? Is Google AdWords getting to the point now where it has gotten so big that is has fallen into the trap of poor customer service?
We won a project from an agency who needed a campaign launch in an extremely fast turnaround. From first phone call to launch — 24 hours. We were positioned to help, so we took the job. The campaigns were built for us; we just needed to do a sweep, launch, and then move into management.
The day we were to go live, I was granted access so I went in and did my checklist. As I launched campaigns, I started seeing disapproved ads. The reason — Parked Domain. I hadn’t come across this error before, so my panic level was moderately high. The landing page looked good to me; it re-directed from http to non-http without any issues. Nothing on the page itself looked misleading or fraudulent. I did some research on the issue in the Google support forums but could not find much, so I called.
The First Phone Call
After waiting on hold for about 5 minutes, the first person I got was somewhat friendly. He heard my concerns and said he would put me on hold to look into the issue. Knowing that this was not a normal issue, I didn’t expect that my rep would be able to quickly handle the problem. I was more than happy to wait on hold to have them reach out to some tech support staff.
After about 5 minutes, he returned. His explanation was muddled and quite hard to understand. Something about the robots.txt file. I asked some clarifying questions, but I still couldn’t understand him. He put me on hold again. When he came back, he said, “I’ve got good news; this is not your fault. Whoever built the site did not do the robots.txt file correctly.”
No, you don’t get it man. This isn’t good news. I don’t care who is to blame. I need this fixed and I need to know how to fix it so I can get it to the client. He tried to explain to me how but was not explaining it properly. However, he said he could send me some more information via email. I figured I would read that and be able to pick up on it.
End Result: We hung up. I got the email; it wasn’t helpful. It was a support page that talked about what a robots.txt file was. Not why it would cause an ad disapproval.
So I continued to poke around help sections trying to figure out this parked domain disapproval issue and I was not getting far. Further, it was now 3:00 PM the day of the launch, and my panic level was rising. So I called back hoping to get someone who may know more about this. (We have all done that when dealing with customer service, right?)
The Second Phone Call
While on hold, a recording was playing, “We are helping other customers at the moment. Thank you for your patience.” I am okay with this, except that it played on a loop EVERY 10 SECONDS. That was like Chinese waterboarding. It was at this moment that I thought to myself — Google AdWords Support is turning into every other large corporate customer service system — poor. Comcastish.
The second rep was cheery and helpful. I explained the situation to him and he seemed to get it. Cool, okay, good. He again put me on hold to get more technical help, which was just fine. I said take your time, find out what you need to. He came back with a more reasonable explanation. The bot was going to the robots.txt file to crawl the landing page and getting a 404 redirect error. Ok, now this makes sense. The next question is how fast I could have the agency fix it and then how quickly I could get Google to review the site and approve the ads. The rep said that he would send me an email and if I just hit reply with the message “Please review.” it would go into an expedited cue. Great — or so I thought.
End Result: The problem could be fixed and the campaign ads would be quickly reviewed and we would be in the clear!
So within 30 minutes the agency told me that they had corrected the issue on the robots.txt file and that we should be in good shape. Ok, I have this on good path; now if this email from the rep would just come through. Must be on its way, right? As a secondary tactic, I filled out the ad review form to see if that would generate any activity.
The Third Phone Call
Now it was 4:30, nearly 80 minutes later and no email from Google. Ads still disapproved, so I decided to call again. More annoying hold messages, but I was only on hold for like 5 minutes — not terrible. I was now speaking to a rep who didn’t sound like he was in the U.S., and it was a bit hard to understand. Not a big deal, I just wanted my situation resolved. I walked him through the situation. I was a bit surprised that none of my previous interactions were on file. I thought that our Client ID would have a record on file that showed our previous interactions.
Regardless, I told the rep we had everything solved and could we please expedite for review as my previous rep assured me that we could. His response was, “I will do my level best sir, but it will take up a day.” Wait. A day? I was just told it would be put into an expedited review cue? Despite my pleading, he told me he would get back to me within the day. Not what I wanted to hear on a Friday, or report back to the client. Not that this was my fault, but you still don’t like delivering bad news. So dejectedly, I communicated to the agency that we were waiting to review the ads and that I would monitor over the weekend.
End Result: Things will finally be working — a day from now.
I logged back into the account, only to see that the ads were still disapproved. No email or phone call from Google. I tried to call the support number, but got a message stating that Google AdWords support is closed on Saturday. I checked my email again later Saturday afternoon and evening. NOTHING.
The next morning came and the ads were still disapproved. I had to add in some tracking URLs for a phone tracking program that the client had sent along, so I thought maybe changing the destination URLs and generating an edit to an ad may cause a new review. It worked. Ads started showing as In Review, and then started showing as Eligible, then Approved. I went through and downloaded the rest of the ads into Google AWE and made bulk edits to all 200 ads. Approved on Sunday morning. Time to move on and into management mode. However, I still had not heard any Google reps via email or phone call.
Sunday at 4:00 PM an odd number from India called my cell. I ignored it and then listened to the voicemail. It was my last Google rep from Friday. It was hard to understand him, but he called telling me that the ads were reviewed and now approved. Geez, thanks man. I appreciated the Sunday call, but it was still a day late and the campaign was launching two days late. At that point, I didn’t feel it was necessary to return the call.
Monday I went about my day and made some usual first-day edits to the campaign as things kicked into normalized mode. At 3:37 PM I was in a conference call on my landline office phone and the phone rings. It was the Google rep again with the Indian number. He did not leave a voicemail. I figured it was a follow-up for the ads. The phone rang again at 3:40. Same number. This time a voicemail. 3:41. Phone rang again, same number, no voicemail. I was thinking, what the heck? Called again at 3:49 and decided to leave another voicemail. As you can imagine, I was thinking something must be wrong with the campaign. After my conference call finished up, I checked the voicemails. Both voicemails essentially just said that this was the rep and just calling to let you know your ads were approved. Okay??? HE CALLS AGAIN at 3:56. Annoyed, I finally answered.
Rep: “Oh hello sir, just wanted to let you know those ads are approved.”
Me: “Yea, yea, thanks. I know. I heard your previous two voicemails???”
Rep: “Okay, Joe, just wanted you to know. I know this was important.”
I just said thanks and ended the call.
So, I thought about this. This is absolute critical product and service Google provides to both their profit margin, my business, and the client’s business. Is the service level I have just experienced satisfactory? I realize that the agency’s oversight on the robots.txt file should not be Google’s emergency to fix; that is not my chief concern. My concern was the lack of consistency in response, troubleshooting, communication, my expectations on when the issue would resolved, and just the downright unprofessional cadence of the follow-up on Monday afternoon. Which begs the question: as the AdWords product grows in size, is Google adequately staffing and implementing infrastructure to handle the support needed for the product? My weekend saga prompts me to say, “No.”