Facebook flops in customer satisfaction survey

Despite being the most popular website in the United States, Facebook ranks near airlines and cable companies in terms of customer satisfaction, a new survey has found.

Despite being the most popular social-networking website in the United States, Facebook ranks near airlines and cable companies in terms of customer satisfaction, a new survey suggests.

The site, which recently hit 500 million users, scored a rating of 64 out of 100 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index's E-Business Report, an annual survey conducted by the University of Michigan and research firm ForeSee Results. The result puts Facebook in the bottom five per cent of all measured companies, below IRS e-filers and at the same level as airlines and cable companies, which perpetually score low.

"Facebook is a phenomenal success, so we were not expecting to see it score so poorly with consumers," said Larry Freed, president and chief executive of ForeSee, in a statement. "At the same time, our research shows that privacy concerns, frequent changes to the website, and commercialization and advertising adversely affect the consumer experience."

The 2010 survey, released on Tuesday, is the first time that social media websites were considered. Based on interviews with 70,000 people, the survey has typically measured satisfaction with around 225 brick-and-mortar companies and government departments.

Other social media sites measured included Wikipedia, which scored 77, YouTube at 73 and MySpace, which scored even worse than Facebook with 63. Freed said Facebook's result was notable in light of Wikipedia's good showing.

"Compare that to Wikipedia, which is a non-profit that has had the same user interface for years, and it's clear that while innovation is critical, sometimes consumers prefer evolution to revolution," he said.

A spokesperson for Facebook said the company had not yet reviewed the survey's methodology in detail, but added that the company clearly had room to improve.

"Building a simple, useful service is the best way to earn and sustain the trust people put in us," she said. "That's why we spend so much of our time and energy focused on improving the products we offer and introducing new ones. We look forward to the next survey."

Google continued to lead the search engine and portal category, scoring an 80 rating with users, followed by Microsoft's Bing at 77 and Yahoo at 76. Bing made a strong first showing and is likely to continue pressuring Google, which saw its rating drop seven per cent from the previous survey.

"Google may be suffering from trying to be too many things to too many people, but it still has the most loyal following," Freed said. "[Bing] is already making gains in market share and using clever marketing and advertising to distinguish itself from the market leader."

Fox News led the online news and information category with a score of 82, followed by at 74 and at 73.