Google E-Mail Outage – A Great Example Of Good Customer Service

Around 12:30PM PST yesterday Google had a pretty significant e-mail outage that lasted a little over an hour and a half.

For a heavily utilized service like Google, this is HUGE. There’s many businesses small and large that rely on Google e-mail to be functioning in order to get business done.

So now you may be wondering…How is this a great example of good customer service?

Stay with me for a sec on this…

Later in the day Ben Treynor, VP Engineering and Site Reliability Czar for Google added  a post to the Gmail blog. In the post they not only accepted full responsibility for what happenned, but outlined what happenned (in the least techie way possible) and let people know what they were going to do to help keep it from happenning in the future.

It seems like so often tech companies and even non-tech companies skirt around issues and fail to accept responsibility for what they did or didn’t do. Then they fail to learn from their mistakes and repeat incidents, again not accepting responsibility or truly addressing what the core issues are.

Technology is hard to manage and hard to keep up. In my 16+ years in the tech field I experienced some of the same things as Google did yesterday – just on a smaller scale. Routine maintenance or procedures would lead to a major outage, even with lots of careful planning and back-up plans.

So the lesson for all businesses (both tech and non-tech) to learn from Google’s issue and Google’s response…

1. Plan, plan, plan and then plan some more – Try to avoid over analyzing things, but always remember that anything can and often will happen, especially when you’re least prepared for it.

2. Work the problem…not the people – Focus on getting things working and back to normal, don’t start pointing fingers. If it’s up to one group or person to resolve then work with them. Offer them your help, support and encouragement. When I was in I.T. my immediate supervisor Tim Johnson and our OPs group VP Rick Shumacher were great about just letting me work the problem. They stood back and let me do what I needed to do, the whole time letting me know they were there if I needed them.

3. Keep people up-to-date – You don’t need to overwhelm people with status updates, but don’t keep silent. Nothing induces more fear or uncertainty and  lack of confidence than not knowing what’s going on.

4. Let the dust settle – Once the issue has been taken care of, let things settle, let people get some sleep and then debrief on what happenned. Sometimes the situation may not even be totally over and some additional things need to be addressed before a really good debrief can happen.

5. Work the problem…not the people – No, this isn’t a mistype, or a cut and paste mistake. When you debrief focus on what happened and what can be done to prevent future issues – not who did what and how idiotic it may be.

  • Mistake Makers – If you made a mistake then admit your fault and let people know what you learned from it to avoid doing it again. Admitting to mistakes will carry far more weight than trying to hide a mistake you made. Trust me, eventually people will find out.
  • Mistake Maker Managers/Supervisors – Work with your staff to help them avoid making the same mistake. Remember what it feels like to make a mistake and the courage it takes to admit you made one. This is a learning experience for everyone.

6. Final update – Update everyone and assume group responsibility for what happened as well as what steps are being taken in the future to avoid the same issue. DO NOT LAY BLAME ON AN INDIVIDUAL – this is the biggest way to kill someone’s drive and determination to do better.

7. Put it into practice – Take everything you’ve learned and actually put it into place. Nothing looks worse than having the same issue happen again because no one bothered to implement what was learned.

For my REALTOR® readers –
All of this can apply to all of your transactions as well. In fact the one thing that’s most important is keeping your client apprised as to what’s going on. The one thing we keep hearing that is important to buyers and sellers is that they’re kept up to date, even if there is no new news.

When you have issues learn from what happened and apply them to your future transactions. Maybe you’ll need to switch vendors, maybe you’ll need to change how your staff interact with customers, maybe you’ll need to change how you do things.  Don’t let bad transactions fall by the wayside…there’s a lesson to be learned in all of them.

As far as Google goes I have even more confidence in them, their services and their products. I love how they handeled everything and while it was in inconvenience, this stuff happens. What matters is how they handled the situation and what they’re doing to avoid future problems.  GO GOOGLE!!!!

Google Chrome – The Next Best OS?

Late Tuesday Google announced that they’re working on an open-sourced OS based on the Google Chrome browser that they’ve released for Windows.

While I’m surprised that they announced it late Tuesday (you would think they’d announce it early in the morning in time for the morning news shows) I’m not surprised that they’re working on this.

Since Google has been in existence we’ve seen them create a lot of really great programs which have all been FREE. Google Earth, G-Mail, Google Apps, etc. They’ve also constantly worked to improve and add little enhancements here and there to the programs over the years.

Google Chrome OS is supposed to be a lightweight, open-source operating system that is supposed to just make things work, and work fast. Google Chrome apps will be based on web technologies, so if a software developer writes it for Chrome, it will also work on Windows, MAC, and Linux machines.

Perhaps the best part of the announcement was this…

“We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.”

Wow. A company listening to technology customers, even better they’re putting their money where their mouth is.

Granted Apple has been doing a pretty good job about listening to its customers…just look at the new iPhone 3Gs.

I am looking forward to this new OS and how it will impact technology and how we’re all connected.

To read the full announcement click HERE. You can also read the currently very brief Google Chrome OS FAQ HERE.

…and in related news both G-Mail and Google Apps have FINALLY broken free of their “BETA” status. It only took a couple of years right? 🙂

Google Squared…A New Way To Compare

Introducing one of Google’s latest enhancements…

Google Squared Search BoxNot sure how long Google Squared has been around for, but this could be very promising, especially for the real estate industry.
I typed in homes for sale and got the following:

Homes For Sale Search Results

While the search results weren’t the best, it’s a start. Even with its rudimentary form I’m still far more impressed with this than I was with Microsoft’s Bing.

The ability to search the web and compare items like this means it’ll be even more critical for REALTORS® to have a significant presence on the internet and to have their listings on as many platforms as possible. Those that do will benefit greatly.

What can’t Google come up with nowadays?

Another Google Innovation…Google Wave

I am continually impressed by what Google introduces to the tech arena. Their products show a lot of thought, contain a great amount of intelligence and as any good company should they listen to their customers wants and needs.

Last week Google introduced their new product Google Wave. From what I’ve seen and read it’s taking collaboration, social networking and social media to new levels.

If you want the quick and dirty, check out this article on Mashable.com.

If you’d like to see some video on it, check out the YouTube embed below.

Keep in mind it clocks in at around 1 hour and 20 minutes

I’m looking forward to seeing this in real life and have signed up to be notified when I can get it. If you’re interested in signing up as well, click HERE

Note to Microsoft – Would you please pay attention to what Google’s doing? Especially the listening to the customer part.

Twittering For A Home Sale

Good ol’ Rudy from Trulia passed on the following about a homeowner who is using Twitter to help sell his home in Durham, North Carolina. His story has even been picked up by the local media and CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

He also used Trulia to find an agent to sell his home, and is using it to find a new home in Salt Lake City.

From the article…

“DJ searched Google for real estate agents and saw Trulia for the 1st time. He liked the look of the site, did some searches and set up some alerts. He asked 4 questions on Trulia Voices, our real estate Q&A community and one local realtor, Michael Colvin,  answered 3 of them promptly and professionally – without the hard sell. DJ told me he liked the way the agent presented himself. This was what helped him make his decision when choosing his real estate agent. He emailed him through the agents profile. They set up a face to face meeting and hit it off.

You can find the rest of the story on the Trulia blog HERE

Take away for real estate professionals…

1. Twitter is gaining major ground everyday
2. Homebuyers and Sellers are going to Trulia to look for agents. A basic profile is free – YOU NEED TO HAVE ONE!
3. Be like Mike – Answer questions in Trulia voices – WITHOUT A HARD SALE!

They Said What About Me On The Web? – Google Alerts

Just the other day I was at Ricardo Bueno’s blog and he posted this great article on personal brand management – you can read it HERE.

In it he talks about keeping track of what’s being found on Google that’s got your name or branding attached to it.

Is someone talking negatively about you? Did a client do a positive blog post about you?

Google Alert will help you keep track of these things and send you updates by e-mail.

I’ve been trying it for the past couple of days and it’s been interesting to see what it’s come up with.

When you have a moment, give it a run – you might find the exercise to be well worth the time.