Facebook Bombs on Customer Satisfaction Index
Facebook's bad reputation among users has deep implications for its role in people's lives today and suggests that its market share is more vulnerable than previously thought
Posted by Killian McAleese, 15th July 2011
Surely Facebook is stratospherically popular? It's in the news and on the silver screen, as well as the screen of every Mac, PC and portable device in every pocket in and around the world. It's theoretically free. It's useful and widely utilised.
But it's apparently 'hated'. Why?
Retail Consultant has been watching carefully as the social networking saga lately rolled onwards and upwards. Initial uptake of Google+ would seem to have been reasonable successful.
Hardly a day passes now that we don't hear one thing or another about the new network: either predicting the doom of the upstart Google service or that of Facebook, but, prophetically, all talking about Google+ either way.
However, another thorn in Facebook's side has been on our radar. Not so widely discussed in the UK was Business Insider's 'Most Hated Companies in America' feature which includes Facebook on its hit-list, ranking at number 10 and sandwiched between UnitedHealth and MySpace.
Yes, that makes Facebook tenth from the bottom; tenth most hated, if you like.
The list is based on research carried out by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) which gives each company a rating out of 100 on the back of thousands of survey respondents throughout the U.S.
Let's first of all put aside some semantics. Chris Nerney rightly points out in an article on ITworld that a low satisfaction rating is not to be 'hated'. 'Least loved' might be more appropriate and 'with least satisfied customers' is probably the most scientifically accurate. Fair enough.
But such semantic criticism only brushes the issue under the carpet: what is free, fun Facebook doing down in the gutter with banks, airlines, utilities and health insurance firms? (Oh, and MySpace.)
What is actually shocking is the fact that most of the other 'hated' companies are the types of businesses we would like to but cannot avoid. We all need bank accounts; we need to pay for light and heat, water and healthcare (where they're not public). Airlines? We don't have to pay for these but we do if we want those long-haul holidays and quick weekend getaways.
And what about Facebook? Well, a) it's free and b) we don't need it.
Or do we?
On the issue of its being free, many would say that on a site like Facebook we're actually the product; for advertisers, merchants, market researchers and anyone else interested in paying to harvest the vast amounts of available data there; we're the apples to be plucked.
But this is a customer satisfaction study which considers the Facebook user as the consumer, not the product. And it's these users who are the unhappy ones, so this is a moot point for our current purposes.
Let's take an interpretative step and focus on a possible point of correlation between many of these companies. Unpopular maybe, but a utilities company is unavoidable in modern life; a health insurer is perhaps avoidable in the U.S. but pursuing one is highly advisable. And for most people, banks and airlines and pretty much unavoidable and essential.
Could it be that Facebook occupies a similar essential role in people's lives? Yes, Facebook is avoidable; no, my mother doesn't have a Facebook account, but the comparison is thought provoking all the same - Facebook as a kind of social utility, an absolute requirement for contemporary social life.
If this is the case, there's an obvious retail consulting lesson to be learned and it is this: whether a product or service is paid for or free of charge, satisfied customers are hugely important, if those customers are your bread and butter. And if you're a utility company with a monopoly? That's a different story as we all know from many irritating phonecalls and dreary, crackly on-hold music.
But think about this: Facebook might be like British Gas, BT or Ryanair: relatively hated but necessary and so grudgingly utilised.
Now imagine this impossible scenario: if you had complete freedom and agility to switch a power, mobile, landline, TV or broadband supplier, completely free of charge, with no penalties, no lost deposits, no sign-up fees for the new service; if you could keep the older one while trialling the new one, if you could switch back if you didn't like it, would you try a new one?
Would you switch supplier if you hated your existing one?
I DEFINITELY would. And that's where Google+ comes in.
These are dangerous times for Facebook.
Will you be switching?
The Google Tax 27th June 2011
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If Facebook don't deal with this sharpish they're going to find that July 2011 was their high-tide mark!
Could this be the scent of blood that Google+ smells?
An interesting point recently noted about the G+ position is that Google now has sanction to punish users on G+ by denying access to users' entire Google accounts! That's a lot of power they'll wield.