Facebook Flops On Customer Satisfaction - InformationWeek

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Government // Mobile & Wireless

Facebook Flops On Customer Satisfaction

The IRS ranks higher than the social networking provider according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index; Google declines, but still leads search engines.

While they love to stay in contact with family, friends and colleagues on the social networking platform, Americans rate Facebook at the bottom 5% of companies in customer satisfaction, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index. The ranking places Facebook on par with two perennially low-scoring industries, airlines and cable companies.

Larry Freed, president and chief executive of ForeSee Results, which specializes in measuring online customer satisfaction, said he was surprised at Facebook's dismal performance. The ACSI produces the report in partnership with ForeSee.

"Facebook is a phenomenal success, so we were not expecting to see it score so poorly with consumers," Freed said in a statement.

However, ForeSee's research had shown that Facebook was damaging its customer experience through its handling of changes to the website, commercialization and privacy. The latter in particular has been a major source of criticism.

The site's handling of privacy in trying to share users' information with advertisers has been denounced by members and advocacy groups, and have attracted attention from government regulators in the U.S. and abroad. The main concern has been the complexity in keeping personal information from public view. Facebook has taken steps to simplify the process and to mend customer dissatisfaction.

In a statement emailed to InformationWeek, Facebook said it expected its ongoing efforts to pay off.

"We haven't reviewed the survey methodology in detail, but clearly we have room to improve," the company said in response to the latest report. "Building a simple, useful service is the best way to earn and sustain the trust people put in us. That's why we spend so much of our time and energy focused on improving the products we offer and introducing new ones. We look forward to the next survey."

Facebook scored 64 on the ACSI's 100-point scale, which was lower than what the Internal Revenue Service receives from tax filers using the agency's online filing system. Among social media websites, Wikipedia led the category with a 77, followed by YouTube, 73.

MySpace, which was eclipsed long ago by Facebook as the leading social networking site, scored even lower than Facebook with a 63. Facebook was the fourth most visited U.S. site in May with more than 130 million unique visitors, according to ComScore.

The report marked the first time ACSI measured customer satisfaction of social networking sites. Overall, the industry has a ways to go to catch up with the highest ranking websites. "We are quite surprised to find that satisfaction with the category defies its popularity," Claes Fornell, ACSI founder and professor of business at the University of Michigan, said.

Among search engines, Google plunged 7% with a score of 80, but remained the leader in the category. Microsoft's Bing made a strong first showing with a 77, trailed by Yahoo, 76; AOL, 74; and Ask.com, 73.

"Google may be suffering from trying to be too many things to too many people, but it still has the most loyal following with 80% of its users citing Google as their primary search engine," Freed said. "That said, Bing's first measure is impressive and could put some pressure on Google."

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