In-the-flow tech support

A faulty keyboard. Trouble getting online. A missing cable. Googlers experience the same technology snafus any office worker would. But a technology company can’t afford for workers to get snagged by technology.

At Google we have several options for speedy support, from instant messaging a tech rep to reporting a bug in the system. We also make sure there’s a real live human tech support person close by. Our Techstops are walk-up stations where users can get their problems solved quickly in the flow of their day—no service ticket required, no waiting on the phone. Placed in convenient locations around Google headquarters, Techstops have IT professionals on hand 9-to-5 and replacement hardware available around-the-clock.

Two TechStop members at the NYC TechStop location helping two other Googlers with their tech issues

The Techstop in New York

Easy anytime accessories

Spilled your chai tea on your keyboard? No problem. Scattered around Google headquarters (often right next to Techstops) are accessory racks where Googlers can snap up keyboards, mice, cables, and other accessories for free—no strings attached.

A Googler with a broken mouse can simply grab a new one off the rack and head back to work. A user en route to Bangladesh or Dublin can quickly snag the right travel adapter or privacy screen for the plane. A Googler on a shorter journey—say just down the hall to a meeting in the conference room—can get the adapter that hooks a laptop up to the projector.

Easy peasy. All of these things can be grabbed “off the rack” without needing to apply, approve, or sign in. There’s no reporting system, no person manning the booth, and no need to check items in or out.

This “beyond the honor system” approach might seem like a good way to throw money down the drain, but we’ve actually discovered that the opposite is true; by trusting our users to take what they genuinely need—with less red tape—we’re actually saving money and increasing productivity.

Beyond the honor system

When designing our accessory racks, we considered a few different ways to efficiently get Googlers the equipment they need without breaking the bank. Our first idea was to deploy vending machines that rely on user IDs to dispense products. However our analysis showed that vending machines would be costly, as they’d have to be integrated with our inventory systems. So we thought about billing each item back to the user’s department, or staffing the accessory rack with a support team member to help dole out the hardware.

And the closer we looked, the smarter it seemed to just give accessories away. The costs of tracking their distribution far outweighed the cost of the accessories themselves.

Limitless free hardware might seem unintuitive, but we had a hunch that giving Googlers easy access to relatively inexpensive accessories would make their days hum along in a much more creative, progressive and productive way.

Google NYC Tech team member putting away a MagCozy in a yellow storage bin

Free hardware might seem unintuitive, but it actually makes Googlers more productive.

Encouraging accountability

Of course, in order to encourage responsible use of devices we practice transparency with the accessory racks. We post the cost of available hardware items so Googlers have a sense of how much each grab costs the company.

And if an item seems to be disappearing more rapidly than we think it should, we reassess whether it belongs on the rack in the first place. For instance, we now require Googlers to submit requests for headphones and earbuds to discourage waste and increase individual accountability. But for the most part, the self service accessory initiative has been a resounding success.

We believe that creating a culture that trusts people to solve their own problems fosters an environment that’s both progressive and productive. And so far, the uptick in employee satisfaction has been our number one confirmation that we made the right decision in deploying self service accessory racks.

Chromebook Grab ‘N Go

Free accessories are great, but sometimes a Googler accidentally leaves her laptop at home or has a technical issue that requires lengthy repairs. One of our most recent experiments is to install Grab ‘N Go Chromebook loaner racks alongside some of our accessory racks. Googlers can borrow a Chromebook without reserving or even checking it out.

Thanks to our security key authentication technology and automated machine tracking, we know which user has the Chromebook as soon as they log in. If the Googler doesn’t return the laptop within three days, we send a gentle reminder. And for Googlers who need a longer loan—say they’re heading out of town and their own laptop is being repaired—we make it very easy to get an extension.

Machinery should never get in the way of productivity. Our Techstops, accessory racks, and Grab ‘N Go loaner racks are three of the ways we’re making IT frictionless for Googlers.

A Googler team member bringing back a borrowed laptop loaner

Chromebook Grab ‘N Go

  • Author
    Max Saltonstall, Program Manager, Corporate Engineering, Google

  • Topics
    Security, Privacy

  • Roles
    IT Leaders

  • Industries

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