An Odyssey In Customer Service

30 Jul 2023

I'm very fond of my phones. I've been a strong Android supporter since it was first announced; my first smartphone device was the HTC Desire, with the laser trackpad and everything.

When Google announced they were getting into hardware, first with the Nexus line and later with the Pixel series, I obviously jumped on board. Android, on a phone made by the company behind it: a perfect match!

So it will come as no surprise to you that when Google launched the Pixel Superfans scheme in the UK, I jumped on that too.

And this is where my customer service experience starts.

An email from the Superfans group arrived, containing this gem:

Get 20% off your next Google Store purchase You may not have won a Pixel Fold this time, but in Pixel Superfans, even runners-up are winners. So, as a thank you for your entry, we’ve enclosed a 20% site-wide discount code to help you with your next purchase on the Google Store.

Perfect timing! I've been wanting a new phone for a few weeks, they seemed to have read my mind, and who doesn't like getting things with money off? So off I went to the Google Store, where I slapped a new Pixel into the basket, hit checkout, and pasted in the code they had provided me with.

It didn't work.

"Coupon code has met redemption limit" it flashed back at me.

Disappointed, I decided to raise a ticket with Google Support. This was a fairly generic experience: "I've got a code provided by yourselves, it isn't working, can I get a new one or this one re-enabled, please?"

A simple enough request, I felt.

It took nearly 48 hours before I heard anything. When I did, it was to confirm that I was happy to confirm that Google had my consent to "use my data" to help them establish the root cause. I went back to them stating they had my consent, believing that the existence of the support ticket was consent enough, but apparently not.

I didn't hear from them for another day, until I was asked - by a different member of the team - to provide a screenshot of the issue. I'd become disillusioned with the entire process at this point, and was fairly blunt in my reply when providing the screenshot:

I'm beginning to lose my patience, if I'm honest. I know I'm not alone, I've seen people on Reddit complaining of the same issue.

Do Google want my custom or not? I assume so, but what is the point of emailing people a code that doesn't work?

I could very easily go and buy an iPhone, but I thought a new Pixel would be nice.

Again, I thought it was a simple solution - give me a code that works, or enable the code I've got so that it does. This was apparently the most difficult thing that could be suggested, and the ticket went back to support.

Another 24 hours later, I get a reply. Completely broken-English word-salad, eight paragraphs all saying variations of "we value your custom", "I am committed to providing you the best support I can" and "we appreciate your co-operation". Also in this word salad was a request to provide another screenshot, uncropped like my last one. This was once again provided as quickly as it was requested, and the ball was back in Google's court - apparently with their "product specialist".

Another day passes and I end up getting more word salad - they're continuing to investigate but there's no further news. Eager to buy the phone I want, I reply with another short message illustrating my frustration:

Is there an ETA for a fix on this? Surely the "product specialist" needs to re-enable the code, or, I need to be provided with a new one?

Exactly how long could this incredibly simple action take? Is four days a normal time? Should I be expecting six? Eight? Maybe ten?

Five days after opening the support ticket, I get a reply from another, new member of the support team who tells me that there's been a breakthrough!

I have a great news from the ticket that your previous Google Support sent to our escalation team.

Our escalation team decided to approved on your request as a one-time courtesy and at the same time we will process everything as requested, however we will be needing your help to do one thing and that is to order your item with full price. Don't you worry, we will refund everything that you've spent once you receive your item.

So: they cannot get the code to work, nor provide me with a functional one, but if I am prepared to order the device at full price, they'll refund me?

I read the message repeatedly - it clearly said "we will refund everything that you've spent". Maybe this was actually a good end to a long, on-going but really simple support case - they were seeing it as a case to gain good favour I was going to get a free phone?

I went back to them to confirm this point, believing that it was too good to be true.

It was. Another, different member of staff replied the next day to confirm that the previous statement was incorrect - the voucher would have given me 20% off, and that was actually the amount that would be refunded.

This made me chuckle. I knew in reality that it was a mistake, but wondered if pointing out the wording would result in a case of them begrudgingly honouring it. But no, I was expected to pay full price and then pursue a refund via the same support team that had utterly failed to resolve me issue in the last week.

So, completely fed up, I replied once again:

Please close this support ticket.

It's been a week since I first tried to use the code and in terms of the proposed solution, I have absolutely no interest in paying full price out of pocket - I'm not convinced that the reimbursement would be successful, based on the experience I've had.

I went to Amazon and bought myself a new phone, and Google missed out.

The next day, I got an email from another new member of the support team, advising me that there was good news, and providing me with a new 20% off code!

My brother asked me if I'd be prepared to use that new code to buy him something from the Google Store. I had no intention of making another purchase so thought I'd give it a try.

It didn't work.

I accept this might be a rambling post but I am pretty sure that I've never engaged with a more incompetent support team than this. I've absolutely no faith that a complex issue will ever be resolved as this simple one was a complete shambles. Lookout anyone thinking Google's support is worth anything.

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