Facebook has redesigned its Help Center. Above, a Facebook logo displayed… (Ted Aljibe / AFP / Getty Images )
The digital age is not known for its customer service.
Few of the big names -- other than Craigslist’s Craig Newmark or the helpful folks at Amazon.com -- give customers much service.
Just try to make contact with a live human at Facebook. Instead, you used to get "help" pages that range from unhelpful to very unhelpful and discussion boards in which other clueless folks try to help each other.
On Tuesday Facebook is rolling out a redesigned Help Center to make it easier for you to find the help you need, whether reporting a phishing scam or a disabled account. Facebook is also making its Support Dashboard, which lets you track the progress of a report once you flag content on Facebook, available to all users.
"Both of these tools aim to provide the people who use our service with access to the information they need from Facebook as quickly and as efficiently as possible," Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, said in an emailed statement.
But will improving the current system satisfy customers who are fed up with it?
Larry Freed, president and chief executive of ForeSee, says if Facebook raises expectations that the customer service experience will be better, it had better get better.
"If Facebook doesn’t solve consumers' problems, they are just going to get frustrated," Freed said. "It's all going to come down to whether they move the needle."
Facebook and services like it are free and, as such, don't technically have any paying customers. They have "users," a far more disenfranchised class of consumer.
Yet these users are -- at least in a sense -- paying customers, they just pay differently. They let Facebook, Google and Twitter mine their personal information to target mobile and online advertising. For the most part, people don’t seem to mind, at least until their account gets hacked, and then the inability to connect live with a real person can become downright frustrating. Still, these digital services remain popular, with very few people defecting from say, Gmail or Facebook.
Even so, the industry knows it has a problem relating to the public. There just aren't a lot of easy fixes, especially for a company like Facebook which, with nearly 1 billion users, deals on a such a massive scale.
At a news conference in 2010, Mark Pincus, chief executive of Zynga, said: "We hope that someone will reinvent customer support for all of us. We're entering this new world where we're offering a free service, but the consumer expectation about the support around that service has been built by Amazon, where they're a paying customer."
That's not to say that Internet giants don't feel your pain. That’s because that pain can cost them, if only in public perception. Facebook ranks lower in customer satisfaction than any other social media site, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. It took a further 8% drop in the most recent survey, which came out in July.
Users aren’t the only ones who aren’t getting a lot of service. Opus Research analyst Greg Sterling says Facebook will have to put a customer service organization in place to help small businesses navigate Facebook, too. Google also relied on a self-service model but created an organization after getting dinged for poor customer service, Sterling said.
"Ultimately customer service is a critical thing for every organization. The question is how to do it efficiently," Sterling said. "But ultimately you have to have outreach through a human or people will express their frustration. And that’s the irony of social media, people will start talking about it on Facebook."
Testing out the new Help Center on Facebook, I thought it was far easier to find what I was looking for. What do you think? Are you a satisfied customer? Let us know in the comments.
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