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Google Guarantee a tradeoff for small business

It may mean more business – but less privacy, and uncertain long-term implications
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This month, Google launched Google Guarantee, a new feature billed as a way for small businesses to reach local customers and have them feel secure about their purchasing decisions by offering a money-back guarantee.

If a customer books a service from a business through Google Guaranteed local ads, Google itself promises a refund of the full cost of the service, with a lifetime cap of $2,000.

Already available in 30 US cities, Vancouver and Toronto are the first Canadian cities to offer the service.

For some used do doing business the old-fashioned way, it’s a tough sell.

“I don’t do business with Google, I hang up on them,” said Chilliwack-based Chris Winterhoff, owner and operator of A&H Appliance Repair.

As a business that operates primarily on referrals and repeat customers, Winterhoff says he doesn’t see the benefit of attracting more clients through Google this way.

“If you take care of your customers and treat them right,” he says, “they will keep coming back and they will refer you.”

When prospective customers call a number with one of Google’s checkmarks listed, an automated voice informs them the call will be recorded by Google before they’re connected. The message says the recording is to “improve service quality, support our policies and for research,” but the real tradeoff for customers is privacy.

We are getting more and more accustomed to some level of listening in in order to gain convenience. For example, I can shout “hey Siri” from across the room and my phone will buzz and light up, ready for its next command. This means of course that it’s “listening” all the time.

Yes, banks and cable providers record calls for “quality assurance purposes.” But calls between customers and small businesses recorded by an outside company takes this to a new level.

It makes sense that Google would need to have a record in order to issue refunds, but increased influence inevitably means they’ll be able to call more of the shots.

A Google press release states “Without the “Google Guaranteed” badge, potential customers have a harder time trusting companies that do not have this accreditation. This drastically decreases visibility, traffic and conversions for many businesses.”

Businesses who have signed up for the service have already reported receiving more calls than usual.

As more and more businesses inevitably sign up and go through the business license and insurance checks required to be “Guaranteed,” we start allowing one company to have more and more insight into our lives.

Small business owners need to ask themselves if this makes sense in the long run.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]