With Apologies to Google: I Didn't Understand

Long ago, in the dark ages before the days of immediate internet access anywhere...in fact, before the days of the internet, in general...I was a graduate student known, among other things, for my expertise in research.

In fact, I had such an impressive reputation in article search - because I could and did find anything that needed to be found - I was constantly being approached by other students and faculty members asking for my help in search logic.

I was, to put it mildly, excellent.

Well, the day came that I decided to stop collecting degrees (because that's what it had come to feel like) and go do what I enjoyed most - which was working full-time for pay in organizations, rather than on graduate internships. (Lots of good learning. No cash.)

The years passed and the technological capabilities grew. And then there was Google - which confused me no end. What was this thing? How did it work? Was it trustworthy? Who was deciding what information I was going to be able to find?

So, one day I had a conversation with my friend, Nadine (you can call her "Haute Everything," as I do - or just "Haute" for short) and I asked her: Is Google just a newer version of ERIC?

Now, for those of you who don't know what ERIC is, it was the breakthrough technology for academic research. It stands for Education Research Information Center and it was the Google of its day. Sort of. At least to start.

Nadine, who, in her Haute-ness, is very tolerant, explained patiently that it was sort of like ERIC but it was much, much more. She also told me that what I was seeing was just the beginning of what Google would be.

More years passed and I watched as Google grew to become a verb. And out of that verb have come some of the most amazing achievements and greatest technology minds the industry has ever seen - including those not working for Google any longer.

Today, I was reminded of all of this when I was introduced to yet another facet of the ubiquity of Google: the Google Trusted Stores program.

I had made an online purchase from a site having nothing, as far as I knew, to do with Google (which it doesn't). I didn't use Google to find it. There was no searching or browsing involved that took me anywhere near Google.

Yet at the end of the transaction, I was suddenly taken to a page informing me that the company I had just done business with is a "Google Trusted Store" and was given the option of participating in the Google Trusted Stores program. For free.

Now I'm used to Amazon's excellent service - both when purchasing through them or the protections they provide when dealing with their vendors - and I knew that you could purchase online using any number of Google entry points...but I didn't know that Google had decided to have my and others' backs by providing a consumer protection service.

Or at least a place to go when things go wrong.

Which makes this one of the most amazing of the amazing steps Google has taken - because Google is morphing more and more into a company that understands that, technology-based as it is, as a service provider it still and always works for and with humans.

And humans have a need for a trusted ally - especially when they're dealing with the blank face and low-grade hum of technology.

Haute was right, all those years ago - only it's not just that it was only the beginning. It's that Google always seems to find new ways to create new beginnings...even in arenas that have nothing to do with them. Like my purchase.

From what I read, it takes a lot to become a Google Trusted Store - which makes me think that, once you've achieved that status, you're going to do everything you can to keep it. Which means that, other than finding the stores that qualify, Google probably doesn't have to do much of anything - because they only get involved when something goes wrong and the vendor doesn't provide a satisfactory answer to the customer.

But, from the customer's perspective, Google has their back - and that's really nice to know.

What does this have to do with you?

Well, at its most basic, bricks and mortar or in the ether, it shows just how important and profitable a differentiator customer service is - because if it wasn't Google wouldn't bother. (Neither would Amazon for that matter.)

It also shows you that you want to find out what the criteria are to become part of the Google Trusted Stores program and then go for it. Whether you qualify for their consideration as an online vendor or you're bricks and mortar, you'll have a clear, measurable target for excellence on which to focus.

And, finally, it shows you the value of surprises to your customers on the upside. Every time you wow your customers with a new idea, a new service, a new way of doing business, a new way of showing respect to and thoughtfulness for them, the more they'll want you to be their verb. Or, at least, a regular destination.