This is the subhead for the blog post

Image credit: mrmomsunite.blogspot.com

Don’t let the title fool you. This is not an anti-Google rant. It’s not praise, either – it falls somewhere in the middle.

Google used to do so much for its clients. When the company was still getting established, and for many years after, it seemed Google went above and beyond to cater to client’s every whim. From lavish parties to an abundance of dedicated resources, Google’s clients lived the good life.

Things are a little different now. We operate in a world where million-dollar (annual) spenders have to call 1-800 numbers for help, and those lucky enough to have dedicated support have to run through fresh intros every six months.

Here’s the funny thing, though – the system works. As frightening as it might seem to get “stuck” with a call center when your account randomly gets reviewed (the shut-off), the level of support is adequate. It’s not the type of support that will always delight customers, but it gets the job done and, frankly, what else matters? Google realized that it could cut back on services without damaging relationships (too much). It certainly doesn’t hurt to own 75%+ of the market, and it doesn’t hurt that most companies need Google more than Google needs them. All of that said, things get done and business keeps humming.

One of Google’s greatest strengths is its platform. AdWords is the ultimate self-serve platform in the world of PPC (yes, I realize many 3rd parties offer advanced features, but we’re talking about network platforms), and that makes things much easier for the services team. Facebook and MSN (while they’ve gotten better) lag so far behind that their services teams are exposed. Deficient platforms put the burden on services orgs, and if your services group can’t handle it, the customer’s experience suffers.

The Google machine can support minimal service. Other machines, not so much. (Image credit: strategicgrowthanddevelopment)

This is how Google ruined services: by recognizing they could scale back their own service levels – knowing their self-serve platform could handle the load – Google set a new standard in services. Other networks, Facebook in particular, have taken cues from Google and gone straight to a model with minimal support (i.e. no agency support…that’s right, none), and it’s not working out the same way. The problem is that Facebooks of the world aren’t ready to operate like that.

By setting a high bar in the early years and then setting today’s minimal-services trend, Google has created unrealistic expectations for those customers who run on multiple networks. As much as Google customers like to complain about service (I’m lucky enough to have a kick-ass agency rep), it pales in comparison to the garbage other networks put out. I guess, through some circuitous logic, you can blame Google for all the bad service you get from other networks. It’s a Google hater’s dream.

There’s a way to fix this: improve your platform. In the year and a half since Yahoo and MSN merged their search offering, the adCenter platform has made some great strides. Granted, many of these features are just (late) copies of Google offerings, but they’ve changed things quite a bit. At the same time, they’ve rededicated themselves to support (on the agency side, at least). Our agency rep (hey, Vince!) can give our Google rep a good challenge, and that bodes well for adCenter.

In a saturated market offering many options for limited marketing budgets, these improvements have made MSN a more attractive option. This is the lesson upstarts and niche networks haven’t learned yet: until you attain “must use” status, you need to invest in services. It might strike you as egotistical, but marketers control budgets, and if you can’t win them over, you won’t get any. Just because Google did it doesn’t mean your network can do it yet. It’s fun to blame Google for starting the movement, but, at the end of the day, it’s your own fault. Fix it or someone else will get those dollars. Pretty simple, no?

Sean Marshall, Director of Search Engine Marketing