Google Fi doesn't trust someone...

Either Google Fi doesn’t trust its customers or it doesn’t trust its support team (or maybe both!)

I recently switched over to Google Fi after a long (20+) year loyalty-fest with Sprint, my first cellular home. With Sprint transitioning into T-Mobile, it seemed like the right time to shop around. Switching to Google Fi was seemingly easy - the plans were simple, and it was seemingly easy to trade in my husband’s and my old phones and upgrade to new ones. But there was some misleading information from a support person at Google Fi, which resulted in only one trade in, not one for each of us. (There are no families with Google products, only individuals.)

I’ll spare you the long story (and it is very long), but in the end, I got a trade in kit for my husband’s phone, but not mine which was newer and worth more. I asked a Google Fi person what to do and I was assured that the phone model would be checked despite what was on the trade in kit label, and encouraged to send in my phone rather than my husbands. Turns out that this is not accurate, and MANY documented support calls later, an escalation to a manager, my providing the IMEI of the phone that I sent them with proof that I owned it… none of this was enough for them to make good on the $37 difference in stated trade in value between the phone labeled on the trade-in package and the phone I was encouraged to send by the Google Fi support person.

You may ask, what’s the big deal - $37 isn’t that much money - I got some trade-in value… Sure. But, all of this is besides the point. This incident got me wondering, who is it that Google Fi doesn’t trust? Me, and that I sent the phone I discussed with support, or their support team, with whom they don’t entrust with the ability to make good on the obvious mistake made by that support agent in telling me the wrong information that led to the discrepancy.

What separates good support from ineffective support?

With the pandemic, there have been plenty of opportunities for services to run into challenges necessitating a call to support. The pattern of these interactions have been fairly consistent - interactions with bots and knowledge bases have been insufficient to address the specific challenge, but once connected to an individual (sometimes after long wait times), the interactions have been satisfying with discussions with knowledgeable, capable, and empowered staff that are able to see an issue through to its satisfactory resolution the first time a call is made. This experience with Google Fi with different people who didn’t review the history, mistakes made by support with no recognition of the problem, and no final satisfactory resolution is an outlier in my support experiences. I set out to understand what happened in this interaction that made it SO unsatisfactory.

If your team makes mistakes, they need to be empowered to fix them.

Mistakes are problematic. If your team makes a mistake that impacts the customer, they need to be empowered to make things right for that customer. In this case, I had proof that I was told incorrect information, I have evidence of my intention to follow up on this information, and I have information that can demonstrate that I did as I said. But, the support team stubbornly put all of that aside referring back to the original data point BEFORE the incorrect information was given. It was almost like saying, the mistake we made didn’t matter - you should have known better. Try saying that to your boss, or your spouse, or your friend. I’m guessing that the result will be similar to the anger that I felt.

Don’t use empathetic statements as “filler text”.

Statements like “I can see that you’re frustrated”, and “we understand your concern” actually detract from the experience unless they are followed up with actual demonstration of understanding. When they are part of a script as an opener to standard pre-written text that might as well be provided by a bot and clearly do not reflect the arc or history of the conversation being had, these words do nothing but further escalate the frustration of the customer. The number of times that I was told that I was “understood” or “completely understood” during this support experience: 21+. The number of times that I feel I was actually understood based on the actions and statements that followed by support: ZERO.

Which is more important, this transaction or the long-term relationship?

Now, I study the dynamics of interactions as part of my work to advise on systems and processes, so that is my excuse for over ten interactions with support and a significant amount of time over $37. But what is Google’s excuse? The cost of providing support to me on this one issue must have far exceeded this amount. And, since the mistake stemmed from an error from the company’s team, why spend all of this money and time to defend it and suggest that the customer need to do more to prove that they acted on the misinformation? If this was one transaction and the company never expected to see me again, the answer might be different (even though it shouldn’t be), but this is a relationship with a person that manages and pays monthly the accounts of six individuals and three businesses. And, even if I only had one personal account, I’m making a payment every month until I leave the service, and I get to reflect on this awful experience every month that I pay my bill. There are LOTS of choices in cellular service, particularly in the NYC area, and leaving is easy. In other words, there are multiple reasons why Google Fi should be treating this interaction as part of a relationship not a transaction, not to mention, one that is at its infancy. And, no company should assume that only one person is having a frustrating interaction; it is more likely that there are systemic issues in their support processes and structures.

What about you?

For now I will press on and see if I can get to a satisfactory conclusion. What has your interactions with support been like recently? And when it was less than satisfactory, what made it so?

And, if you are at Google Fi, check out support Case ID 7-6721000031771 and all of the related cases on that same account for a case study of how your support team is using a script (and going off script) without the ability to correct mistakes at the detriment of your customers and their long term relationship with you.