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Facebook, other social media sites rank low for customer satisfaction

AP file

Google+ could be a true Facebook challenger next year when it comes to ranking social media sites, say those who are involved with the American Customer Satisfaction Index report.

Facebook and other social media sites continue to rank low in terms of customer satisfaction in the U.S. Only "airlines, subscription TV and newspapers do worse," according to findings in the 2011 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Business Report. And with Google+ as a recent Facebook challenger, the results may be very different next year, ACSI said.

The report is compiled by the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, in conjunction with customer analytics firm ForeSeeResults.

This is the second year the ACSI has measured satisfaction with social media sites; last year, "the industry's debut was not impressive," said the ACSI report, released Tuesday. "Inaugural results revealed rather weak user satisfaction. In 2010, the category earned a score of 70 on ACSI’s 0 to 100 scale. This year, not much has changed."

The index for all ACSI reports is based on interviews with approximately 70,000 customers a year. You can view all the scores here.

"Despite a small improvement this year, Facebook (+3 percent to 66) is the lowest-scoring site, not only in the social media category, but of all measured companies in this report," ACSI said in a press release.

The survey was done in June, "before the widespread introduction of Facebook’s biggest competitor, Google+, but Facebook’s low score indicates that Google+ could easily pounce and gain market share if they can provide a superior customer experience."

Larry Freed, ForeSee Results president and CEO, said, "We don’t know yet how Google+ will fare, but what we do know is that Google is one of the highest-scoring companies in the ACSI and Facebook is one of the lowest. 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.”

Wikipedia topped the social media category "for a second year, up 1 percent to an ACSI score of 78." It's the "only social media site to beat the e-business (75.4) and national (75.6) averages for customer satisfaction," ACIS said. "Wikipedia benefits from its nonprofit position in the sense that users are able to surf, create and edit content without any intrusion from commercial messages."

In other findings, Google leads the "search engine and portals" category with a score of 83, up 4 percent from last year, with Bing second at 82, "jumping an impressive 7 percent in one year," ACSI said.

"Anything over 80 is generally considered an excellent score. Bing has grown in market share over the last year and makes up roughly 17 percent of the search engine market, up from 9 percent last year." (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBCUniversal.)

Said Freed: “While Google+ is the challenger to Facebook’s established dominance in the social media sphere, in the search engine wars, Google is king and Bing is hoping to be a contender. Last year, Google’s customer satisfaction score was three points higher than Bing’s. This year, that gap narrows to one point. Bing is showing it can challenge Google in terms of revenue, market share, and the customer experience.”

Among news websites, FoxNews.com, with 82, "has a strong lead on the news and information category and is 5 points ahead of the next highest-scoring site, ABCNews.com," ACSI said. "HuffingtonPost.com (69) debuts at the bottom of the industry. Satisfaction with NYTimes.com drops 4 percent this year to 73."

ACSI noted that the study was done during the same time the New York Times' website "began to implement their metered paywall, but it remains to be seen whether satisfaction will rebound as customers adjust to the new business model."

USAToday.com's site had a satisfaction score of 76, down 1 percent from last year; msnbc.com was at 76, and unchanged from last year. At 76, it tied with CNN.com, up 1 percent from last year.

“E-business is still relatively immature in many ways, often more interested in technology than in satisfying customers,” said Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI. "As competition gets tougher, this is likely to change, and the successful companies are going to have powerful cause-and-effect customer satisfaction measurement systems. The losers will be the companies that underestimate the power of a dissatisfied customer and fail to upgrade their current measurement systems.”

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