ACSI, the organization that does annual customer satisfaction/loyalty measurements for a wide variety of industries, today announced the results for the E-Business sector. Social media sites in general, and Facebook in particular, were not well liked (pun intended).
As a category, E-business earned an average score of 69, but with wide variation. Leading the pack were portals/search engines at 79, with Google and Bing both earning high marks. In the news/information category, FoxNews.com earned an 84 — the highest score of in the entire e-business category.
And social media? You know, all those sites designed to help people vent about their problems. The story is not good. Behind an aggregate score of 69 (the e-business category average) you’ll find Wikipedia and Google+ leading with 78s. And Facebook at the bottom with a 61. That’s a five point drop since last year, and places Facebook in the bottom 2% of all of the companies that ACSI monitors. Wow!
Source: Larry Freed, President and CEO, ForeSee
According to Larry Freed of ForeSee (a partner/sponsor for ACSI’s E-Business category), users are unhappy because of the new “timeline” user interface, ads that detract from the user experience and concerns about privacy. All of these issues have been well covered in the press for quite some time. And yet, they persist.
To be fair, LinkedIn and Twitter aren’t doing much better, with below average scores of 63 and 64, respectively. LinkedIn has been criticized for a clunky user interface, but recently began implementing an updated home page design. Early this year, a LinkedIn representative speaking at a conference discussed how they use analytics to make user experience changes, with the goal of delivering value to both the user and to advertisers. This seems to be what’s missing at Facebook, where apparently Zuckerberg’s whims are implemented without much thought.
The larger question is whether customer satisfaction measures apply to big social media sites, when they become defacto monopolies. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter each serve distinctly different needs, for now at least. You can’t easily move your followers or friends to a competing service, even if the experience is a lot better.
ACSI says its methodology is a “predictive indicator of customers’ future behaviors and future financial results.” This is what you’d expect if you believe there is a “loyalty effect” where happy customers stick with a brand, buy more over time, and recommend others. If that is so, then sooner or later Facebook and other low-performing e-business companies will face defections.
But this loyalty effect assumes consumers have a choice in a competitive market. When Ma Bell controlled the phone industry years ago, did it matter if customers were happy? No, because they were stuck. Same goes with most utilities and government services.
And so it seems is the case with social media. Facebook users are stuck. Until Google+ or another site reaches critical mass and users start switching, Facebook can continue to do whatever it likes and not listen to its users.
In the near term, I think the situation will get worse. Facebook’s paying customers are advertisers struggling to get an ROI on Facebook ads. That core problem will have to get fixed to please investors who thought they were buying a $100B company and now find themselves owning shares worth 26% less than the IPO price.
In my view, courting advertisers will probably mean more “innovations” like Timeline shoved down the throats of Facebook users. Hey, maybe it’s time for a social media site for users to complain about social media sites!
Further reading: Facebook’s #EpicFail — Lack of TRUST by Users and Investors