Google dips toe into customer service business

Thu Jun 7, 2012 4:06pm EDT
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By Alistair Barr

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Google Inc is dipping its toe into the customer-service business as the world's largest Internet search company steps up competition with e-commerce giant Inc.

Google rolled out a new certification service called Google Trusted Stores on Thursday that helps shoppers see which online merchants ship quickly and reliably and which ones offer great customer service.

Google has been testing the free service with online retailers including Wayfair, Timbuk2 and Beau-coup. It is open to all U.S. merchants starting on Thursday.

Google offers up to $1,000 in what it calls "purchase protection" to shoppers who opt in to the program when making a purchase.

The company has a dedicated customer service team based at its Mountain View, California, headquarters to help resolve problems if shoppers are not getting anywhere with the merchant.

Google is also working on providing its own phone-based support for shoppers in the program, said Tom Fallows, an e-commerce veteran who is now group product manager at Google Shopping.

Fallows would not say how many Google employees are working in these new customer-service positions, but he said the business is "significantly over-staffed."

The move is unusual for Google, which is known for its tech-heavy, automated approach to business. About a year ago, the company started offering phone support for customers of its dominant AdWords online advertising service. But there are few, if any, other examples of such a hands-on, employee-centric approach to customer service, especially for consumer-facing businesses.   Continued...

A photo of the Google Inc. logo is shown on a computer screen in San Francisco, California July 16, 2009. Google Inc's quarterly profit and revenue rose in the second quarter despite the tough advertising market, beating Wall Street expectations. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith