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Google Account Auto Suspension Takes Out Local Business

Google Suite’s Support Channels Prove Effectively Useless

This is what happens when you trust Google to run core elements of your business and that trust is violated. It’s what happens when a company becomes so large and makes so much of its money from one service that they disregard other paid services. So much of our digital life is built around email and increasingly other associated Google products like Google Drive and Google Docs.

So what happens when locked out from all of this? Obviously it becomes very hard to do business. This is currently the case for one of our clients. A local electrician keeps his quotes, emails, and invoices all in Google Drive and Docs. He’s stuck, yesterday he reported that he couldn’t even go into work due to the issue. Problems started for him on Sunday and it is now approaching Friday: 5 days without access to his account.

What happened Here?

We received a call from our client on Monday. He had been having trouble logging in on Sunday but was hoping to resolve it himself. We are resellers so we have access to a panel that lets us reset customer passwords and usually unlock the accounts if they were suspended for too many failed logins. For whatever reason, our client’s account was automatically suspended but did not give us the option to unsuspend it. Over the course of the past week, support was only able to say it’s likely due to their password being compromised. Fine, we should be able to reset it, show them how to setup 2FA, and move on with our business.

That is not how things went.

Enter ‘Support’

Google Suite has a support button where you can be connected to a support technician by phone. This support is tied to domains by a PIN. Support makes no distinction that we are in the Partner program and have a dozen or so domains under management. So we have to provide a second PIN when we call in. Phone support couldn’t help at all, but opened an email ticket. This ticket was answered a little over 12 hours later by a support technician requesting we fill out a form to receive a new ticket number. At this point, it was after 12AM but I pushed on knowing our client was facing increasing pressure to get his account re-enabled. Eventually after a flurry of emails with support mostly confused by there being two open tickets in the system, we were asked to perform a CNAME validation. I couldn’t do this until my client was awake around 8AM the next morning.

A Entire Day Passes

Support didn’t respond to us during our regular business hours after we made the CNAME change. We poked a few times over the day via email. Over 20 hours went by until we received the next response. Here it is:

Google CNAME response

I will admit it was at this point I finally started to lose my cool. Password recovery can take up to 48 hours typically as it filters through support at large companies, but this delay is unreal. Every interaction I have with their support I get a different estimate. When I brought up our SLA agreement on the phone, they explicitly stated that it would not apply and they would not be issuing a service credit for this period of inaccessibility.

The Knowledge Test

After requesting that I add a second CNAME record two days after the first was completed, I was finally sent a list of questions to fill out:

Take a look at it. Notice the second two sections? That’s not how things work for a reseller. We are billed directly by Google for all the domains we have management of, then our clients get billed for that through us. Google doesn’t handle your payment information when you use Google Apps with us. Regardless, I answered all the questions and attached our reseller invoice as proof (at around 3AM). I then went to sleep for a few hours. This is what I woke up to:

So, we resubmitted that and are now waiting some more. I’m hoping that maybe around midnight we’ll have a resolution, but I’m not very optimistic.

To Summarize The Issue

It has truly been a difficult week. As I write this post I’m averaging just over 4 hours of sleep per night. As of right now, 26 emails have been exchanged between me and their support. What is supposed to be the correct support department only seems to respond to their emails between the hours of 12AM and 5AM EST. We’ve logged a total of 2 phone calls, performed 2 DNS CNAME verifications (support demanded we do another last night), reached out to 3 acquaintances that work at Google, and filled out a ‘knowledge test’ questionnaire twice.

All of this and it still feels like we’re at square one. We are suffering real time and monetary losses in lost opportunity (I had to postpone a client initial consult today, for instance) and our client is potentially losing thousands of dollars per day being entirely unable to work while this account is suspended. Considering this has taken up a week of my time now, I can safely estimate that our GSuite profit margin is gone for the year.

Oh. In case you think it’s just us, TechCrunch recently had an article about one of their writers getting locked out for a month.

A final thought: We’ve had sporadic support contact with Google over the years. I am unable to recall a single instance in which support was successfully able to solve an issue. There is no process for escalation. I believe Google’s ‘support’ exists for those unable to read the documentation, not for customers facing real bugs or disruptions.

Final Support Contact

Throughout the day Thursday we tried to open a new ticket to see if we could get our issue assigned to another support technician. This time I spoke to Geremy, who claimed to know Vincent personally. He told me that the case would be escalated to a case manager, but unless I wanted to start over again, I’d need to wait for Vincent to respond in approximately 4 hours. At around 11:30PM Vincent responded with a new knowledge test. We responded within a few minutes, filling out all the questions. Around a half hour later we received this email:

So, all good right? Spoiler: We never heard from Vincent again and never received a password reset link from him.

Conclusion

Support was useless. If anything it caused us far more downtime than not contacting support would have. We figured out a solution around 3PM today and I’ll document it for any Google Suite Partners stuck with the issue:

Problem: Your client’s super administrator account becomes autosuspended and there is no option to re-enable from your reseller panel.

Solution: Reassign super admin privileges to another user on the domain and set the secondary email to your reseller email. You will need to do this through your reseller panel. Go to the domain’s admin console. Select More Controls (at the bottom) > Admin Roles. Assign another user in the domain as a super administrator. If you don’t have another I guess you’ll have to find another way. Once this user is assigned, go back and select company profile. Set this user as the admin, then set your reseller account email to secondary account.

After we did this, we tried password recovery and were sent a reset link instantly that allowed us to change the password on the account without proving we owned it. It let us sign right in. The Admin Console for the domain still shows this user’s account as disabled but it’s clearly not anymore. Our final take from this is that not only is support broken, but the admin console is actually broken. There are two versions of the admin console currently live, so maybe the creation of the new one broke unlock functionality.

I don’t know how to file a bug with them, and I’m so sick of getting run around by their ‘support’ this week that I want to have zero correspondence with them. What I do know is Google doesn’t care about its customers, its partners, or the future of the Internet. Companies like Microsoft, Fastmail, and Rackspace do seem to care about supporting their email-related products. We will not recommend any of Google’s products in the future but we will assist our current clients should they want to leave using Google Suite.

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