Facebook Scores Low in Customer Satisfaction

Ubiquity does not equal quality, and that applies to social media sites as well as cable providers, according to a new survey of social media users by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Specifically, the ACSI found that Facebook, by all accounts the dominant social network, has one of the lowest customer satisfaction rankings both on the Web and among major companies generally.  How low? We're talking down by the airlines... ouch!

Facebook scored 64 out of 100 on the ACSI point scale, which is like an "F" on a standard grading rubric. The sources of dissatisfaction listed by ACSI include privacy issues, frequent changes to user interfaces, and increasing commercialization. For comparison's sake, Google scored 80, YouTube scored 73 and Wikipedia scored 77, due to fewer big changes in the interface and a less intrusive approach to privacy.

ACSI founder Claes Fornell wrote: "Like Google, Wikipedia's user interface has remained very consistent over the years, and its nonprofit standing means that it has not been impacted by commercialization and marketing unlike many other social media sites."

Now, it may be tempting (for social media marketers, at least) to dismiss the concerns about commercialization out of hand. After all, it should be pretty clear by now that Facebook is not a charity, and users are naïve if they expect something for nothing. The business of America is business (the argument goes), all we're trying to do is sell ‘em something fer chrissakes, blah blah blah. However this is letting Facebook off easy.

First of all, there's nothing to indicate that ACSI respondents are against commercialization per se; Google is also a for-profit business but it scored way higher than Google. Most consumers are sophisticated enough to understand that a free service like Facebook, with no subscription fees, has to rely on other means of support like advertising. The problem is clearly with how Facebook has gone about it -- and (more specifically) how it has repeatedly failed to communicate important changes to users.

I can also see Mark Zuckerberg and company dismissing these results out of complacency: Facebook is the biggest social network and has the crucial advantage of momentum on its side. But the ACSI score is low enough that, in my humble op-ed, it points to real dissatisfaction among a large number of users about substantial issues -- setting the scene for a large-scale exodus to a competitor like Google+.  Will it actually happen?  I'm skeptical. But unlike the airlines -- which get away with crappy customer service because they operate something like a collusive monopoly or trust in air travel -- in the world of social media it's a lot easier for consumers to take their business elsewhere.

3 comments about "Facebook Scores Low in Customer Satisfaction".
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  1. Christi Pemberton from GC Style Magazine, July 20, 2011 at 5:51 p.m.

    Facebook, from what I heard, has a larger international population than U.S. citizens...which makes us the minority. Will this large international population have the same view as Americans surveyed about Facebook's quality..and does that make the view you stated not as worrisome? Many of us expect too much from something that is free and that relies on advertising to keep going as a company. We don't always like what advertisers do, but if you are sharing a free network like Facebook with everyone else, then you don't have a lot of say about how the company operates. I do believe that the privacy issue should be taken seriously, but is a social network...if you put info on the internet, regardless of what a social network says or tries to do with its privacy are at risk of having that info floating around in cyberspace. That is just the new reality...but are we mature enough to accept that reality? I am a big believer in if you want something your way, you have to pay for it by some means whether it is by money, time, or some other means. The internet and social media have kind of spoiled us a bit in everything being free....which is fine if a company can keep it going without going under. IF a company can't find revenue, then it has to do one or two can keep going the way it is and go out of business..or it can find another way to monetize, which may mean more ads or charging a fee.

  2. Eric Scoles from brand cool marketing, July 20, 2011 at 5:52 p.m.

    If Facebook blows their lead, it won't be the first or even the 50th time someone with a seemingly insurmountable lead has blown it. Viz what's happening now in the browser space, with Chrome stealing users away from both IE and FF.

    As for the invinceability of Facebook, all these arguments are predicated on a flawed assumption: that 750M-reach in a walled-garden social network trumps multi-billion-reach in an open-access search network. As someone at IEEE put it, Google wants you to search for stuff on the web, because search is their business; Facebook wants you to search on Facebook. And the last time I checked, the web was a lot bigger than Facebook.

  3. Jonathan Betts from MediaCom, July 24, 2011 at 8:55 p.m.

    The users of Facebook aren't Facebook's customers, they're its product. The advertisers are the customers, although I don't know what satisfaction score they would give.

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