My Response to Google’s Maps Happiness Survey

Many thanks to Mike Blumenthal for alerting me to the Google Maps User Happiness Survey. I was pleased as punch to be able to give Google some feedback about my experience with using Maps, and I hope it will be useful to them. I thought you might like to read my responses to the 3 main questions on the survey. Here we go:

What if anything do you find frustrating or unappealing about Google Maps?
As a web designer with a keen interest in Local Search, what I find most frustrating about Maps is the inability to make direct contact with a support team when problems become apparent in my clients’ LBC listings or in the accuracy of Maps.

Though I applaud the help group Google has made available, this is not a replacement for being able to have a live conversation with a Google rep in the event of map spamming, missing or inaccurate data or other issues.

The current situation with the switch to TeleAtlas is a good example of what I am trying to illustrate. We are now seeing numerous businesses reporting errors, but Google is faced with the reality that many business owners and private citizens are still unaware of the existence or power of Google Maps, and therefore, will not even attempt to report errors. This means that wrong data may sit in Maps indefinitely, because Google has not developed a one-on-one rapport with business owners or citizens regarding Maps. Having taken on the responsibility of becoming the nation’s finest source of local business data, Google has not yet backed this up with a live support system that ensures citizen awareness or accuracy of data, made secure by an easy, fast and well-known reporting system that would truly enable citizens to partner with Google in keeping Maps accurate and relevant.

Just this week, I was approached by an automotive repair shop owner in the town of Hayward WI. His business address is located at 15989 Nursery Road in this popular tourist town. Unfortunately, both Navteq and TeleAtlas’ data on this business not only puts him in a wrong location on the map, but does not even show the road he is located on. The road is missing. Obviously, this is causing major problems for a small business owner like this whose clients are being sent to a wrong location by Maps, and who cannot even find the correct road if given directions, because the road is missing.

My understanding is that I can come and report this problem to you via the help group, if this business owner becomes my client, but that I shouldn’t expect a direct response from your Maps guides, and that it may be many months before a correction is made. This business owner also reports that his whole corner of the Map is inaccurate, showing wrong road names and a railroad that hasn’t existed there for over 40 years, and now I am hearing that TeleAtlas appears to be producing numerous maps with very old data on them. This is obviously a major concern and the lack of a live support team only augments the level of frustration business owners feel, seeing their businesses inaccurately represented by Google.

I want Google to span the bridge here and get talking with the business owners whose data they’ve collected, because I genuinely believe in the awesome power of Maps. To me, Local Search is all about being a good neighbor, and I would like to see Google adopt a good neighbor policy by making communication accessible and responsive. I want to see Google succeed at this, because of the tremendous potential Maps has to improve life for everyday people. But, it all comes down to trust, like everything else on the web, and in my opinion, Google has built the stellar application, but has yet to build the trust needed to back up what they’ve created.

What changes or additional features would you like to see for Google Maps?
As you might guess from my above response, I would like to see Maps backed up with a real, live support team, whether by live chat, email or telephone. I would like to see a real data validation system put in place to reduce the prevalence of Maps spam. And, because Google has now gotten into the business of User Reviews, there has got to be a system in place for the moderation of said reviews. Transparent review guidelines and the ability for business owners to respond to negative reviews would be a big improvement. I would like to see a quick response to errors that is commensurate with the fast pace people have come to expect from the Internet. In short, it’s one thing for the Yellow Pages to say that they can’t fix errors until next year’s phone book comes out. But this is Google. This is the web. With the right support, the accuracy and trustworthiness of Maps and the LBC could be improved 100%.

What do you like best about Google Maps?
The user interface is handsome and very easy to use. The potential power of the application is simply wondrous and for all of my criticism, I stand in awe of the technology and usefulness of Maps. I really enjoy the My Maps application and like the simplicity of leaving reviews. I really appreciate the ease of embedding the maps into blog posts and web pages. These are great things!

Maybe that’s quite a mouthful, but I continue to long for real communication with Google and I wanted to make the most of this rare opportunity to give them a picture of my experience with their incredibly powerful and influential application. What do you think of my answers? Do you agree/disagree? What would you tell Google about Maps?

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