The launch of Google’s new Nexus 7 Android tablet marked their entry into retailing hardware devices directly to Australian consumers. However, the experience of customers who pre-ordered the Nexus 7 shows that the company has much to learn about selling and delivering physical products.
Apple has shown a great customer experience is about more than just the device itself, the entire pre-order/retail process and delivery logistics must also be handled with care.
This is where Google has a problem. It dominates the search engine industry, earns billions each quarter from advertising revenue and employs some of the smartest people in the IT industry.
However, if Google were a child at school the report card would have a comment at the bottom saying: "very smart but not socially adept, a poor communicator".
The people who pre-ordered the Nexus 7 on release day are some of the biggest fans of Google and Android. Early adopters are likely to evangelise what they buy to friends and family, so it’s important to make sure they are not aggrieved.
Therefore the logical approach would have been for Google to take extra special care to manage their expectations by keeping them informed about the progress of their order and process orders in first in first out order (FIFO).
This was not the case as the following disappointed tweets from Australians who pre-ordered a Nexus 7 demonstrate:
Neil Phillips (@NeilPhillips) wrote: "Dear Google - so.. what was the Nexus 7 logistics thing all about? no communication/different delivery dates. Eric said you're a h/w co. now."
Ross Fawcett (@claymen) wrote: "Good work on the delivery of my Nexus 7. Friends who pre-ordered after me will get theirs before me. How does that work?!"
The United Kingdom was another country whose residents were able to pre-order a Nexus 7 and they experienced a similar long period of silence from Google for over 2 weeks between pre-ordering and receiving a delivery status update.
Matt Alexander (@Mattalexand) wrote: "The utter lack of information regarding the Nexus 7 delivery schedule is very frustrating. Shows Google's lack of experience here."
Commenting on Google Plus, British Consultant Simon Black summarised the shambles in a post that attracted a lot of comments and agreement from others in the same situation:
"Google have done a phenomenal job at alienating a large proportion of their early adopter market by turning the product release of the Google Nexus 7 Tablet into a customer service fiasco," he said.
To further rub salt in the wound of UK customers, according to The Register thousands of pre-ordered Nexus 7’s were held in delivery limbo because the courier company – TNT – was sent incorrect mailing address information by Google’s outsourced British distributor Computer 2000.
Rather than outsourcing to one distributor and logistics/courier company worldwide Google appears to have used different ones for each country, with Australians receiving their Nexus 7’s via Fedex with postage marking the source as Expansys Hong Kong.
On top of the poorly executed pre-order delivery process, Google’s fervent belief in the cloud appears to have caused them to make a tactical error in assuming that the majority would pre-order an 8GB Nexus 7, resulting in delays and lack of stock for the 16GB model.
Contrary to what Google, Apple and many other technology companies would have us believe, relying primarily on cloud storage for mobile devices is not practical or affordable at present.
The current patchy availability and exorbitant cost of transferring large amounts of information using mobile data networks means the requirement for a decent amount of local storage on smartphones and tablets is a given for the foreseeable future.