July 20, 2011, 12:45 PM

Consumers flock to Facebook, but aren’t satisfied with it, a report says

And that dissatisfaction leaves the door open for Google to move in with Google+.

Allison Enright

Editor

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Google Inc. claims the highest satisfaction score among the providers of online services measured in the 2011 American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Business Report. Facebook, by contrast, scored the lowest among the approximately 80 providers rated. Although the report measured the companies in different categories—Google in its capacity as a search engine and Facebook as a social media provider—the report’s authors contend that consumers’ dissatisfaction with Facebook and their good opinion of Google could be a plus for Google+, the social network Google Inc. began testing last month.

 “An existing dominance of market share like Facebook has is no longer a safety net for a company that is not providing a superior customer experience,” says Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results, the market research firm that helped produce the report. Facebook said earlier this month that it has 750 million active users. Google said last week that despite being available for only a few weeks, and by invitation only, Google+ has more than 10 million users.

Consumers say they are most satisfied with their experiences with Google, granting it a satisfaction score of 83 on a 100-point scale, up from 80 a year ago. Facebook’s satisfaction score was 66, up from 64 points a year ago. The American Customer Satisfaction Index considers a score of 80 or above excellent, scores in the 70s average and anything in the 60s or under as below average.

Freed attributes part of Facebook’s lower satisfaction score to the complexity of its user interface. “Facebook has a wide spread of people of different ages using it, and when it adds new features and functions it doesn’t do a great job of explaining them,” he says. “Facebook is designed for tech-savvy people and that means it’s not intuitive for all the people using it.”  Freed says Facebook’s revisions to its privacy policy and the way it uses consumer data to target ads also impacted the score. 

The average score across the three industries measured in the report was 75.4, up from 73.5 a year ago. The report measured Internet news and information providers, Internet portals and search engines, and Internet social media.

“E-business is still relatively immature in many ways, and often more interested in technology than in satisfying customers,” says Claes Fornell, founder of the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

There were some notable improvements in satisfaction, however. In the Internet portal and search engine category, Microsoft’s Bing search engine scored 82 points, up five points from a year ago and just one point behind Google’s 83. “Bing is showing it can challenge Google in terms of revenue, market share and the customer experience,” Freed says, calling Bing a contender. Search engine Ask.com earned a score of 80, up 7 points from a year ago.

As a category, social media earned 70 points, the worst overall satisfaction average among the measured industries. Wikipedia led scoring in the category with 78, followed by Google’s YouTube with 74, all others with 67 and Facebook with 66.

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