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Facebook fails customer satisfaction test

Despite its meteoric growth – almost 500 million members and counting – the leading social networking site Facebook has a customer satisfaction problem. At least that’s the conclusion of online research company ForeSee Results, which for the first time included social networking activity in its annual satisfaction ratings for e-commerce and e-business.

In fact, Facebook’s score of 64 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) scale of 100 puts it in the bottom 5% of all measured private sector companies, alongside perennial low-scorers like airlines and cable providers.

So what’s behind the apparent dissatisfaction with a company that’s exhibited phenomenal growth even by the Internet’s own elevated standards, and one which can count two-thirds of all U.S.-based Internet users as customers?

As with most customer satisfaction problems it appears to be a combination of factors, including Facebook’s recent and much-publicized privacy issues. However, according to ForeSee Results president and CEO, Larry Freed, privacy isn't the biggest gripe. “Instead, [members] were more concerned with frequent changes to the site's interface, the technology that controls news feeds, and spam,” said Freed in an interview with The Wall Street Journal's Digits blog.

Freed contrasted Facebook with Wikipedia, the site that scored highest in the social media space with 77. It has basically had the same user interface for years, providing a level of familiarity that generally leads to a higher satisfaction rating.

Another tricky issue facing Facebook is the diversity of its community. “When you think about Facebook three years ago versus now, it has a much more diverse audience than it did before,” said Freed, referring to the number of over-35s that have come on board. “Facebook has to learn how to deal with consumers across a broad range as they make changes.”

In other results, Google still leads the search category with a score of 80, although Microsoft’s Bing made a strong debut with 77, followed by AOL with 74 and Ask.com with 73. And in the news and information category, FOXnews.com again proved dominant with a score of 82, the highest score of any news site in the nine years of measurement.

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