Call 1-976-GOOGLE for a good time
There are several sites that many people really depend on, such as Facebook and the various Google services (Gmail, Docs, and so forth), and perhaps even Twitter. I’d include Yahoo in there as well, at least for some people. You could go further and add some of the big blogging services and media/photo sharing services to the list as well.
By “depend on,” I really mean depend on, both for business and personal use. You might be a heavy Facebook user who depends on the site for interacting with family and friends. You might have hundreds of hours invested in a photo-sharing site, or depend on Gmail to run your business. We can all think of very critical ways most of us depend on one or more of these type of cloud-based services.
While having a backup is better then nothing, it doesn’t make up for the serious interruption that could happen if you lose access to your account on one of these services, either through foul play or an unresolved technical glitch.
All of these services, including Google and Facebook, do not have any way for you to contact technical support. There’s no one to help you. Your only choice is generally to browse forums or send email in the vain hope that someone might look at it. The response times are awful. I know someone who was locked out of their Facebook account for weeks before the issue was resolved. Stories of people being locked out of their Google accounts are sadly common as well.
I can understand why sites like Google and Facebook do not provide free phone support – the cost would be overwhelming. However, I have often wondered why none of these companies have offered paid, premium support. I imagine if Google or Facebook offered “Red Carpet” tech support at say $50 per incident, it would end up being quite profitable, because most of the things people call about can probably be resolved somewhat quickly (I’m thinking account lockouts or very specific technical glitches). We’re not talking “Geek Squad” PC support questions here.
From the customer perspective, it would be a winner too. $50 might seem like a lot, but if your business depends on Gmail and you need to get an account issue resolved in an hour as opposed to a week, $50 (or even $100) would be cheap. You might be pissed that you had to pay, but at the same time relived that it will get taken care of and you have a real human, who has the power to fix and escalate things, at hand (needless to say, I would make the premium support domestically-based).
Setting the price high (or perhaps charging per minute) would discourage calls from “casual” users and would be self-limiting as to the types of people and problems that would be handled. It would prevent calls from people anxious because their Facebook account has glitched for a couple hours. Still, there are a few issues to consider. If the issue ends up being something that is truly the fault of the service provider, a (partial) refund might be appropriate. Authentication issues might also have to be handled properly, especially for account access queries.
Still, I think this is an idea whose time has come. What do you think?