Consumers Unhappy with Car, ask Facebook for Faster Horses Instead

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on July 18, 2011

There is a well known story of Henry Ford once saying that, if he had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse. Not only do consumers often struggle to see beyond the familiar (even free flowing online idea generation communities rarely turn up anything more than small, incremental innovations), they are also dependably bad about describing their own feelings and wishes.

Today, the ACSI (American Consumer Satisfaction Index) released their latest eBusiness report which ranked consumer satisfaction with a variety of Internet sites including search engines, content portals, news sites, and social media. According to the survey, 30% of consumers are unhappy with their social media experience, and Facebook in particular. That puts Facebook down near the bottom of all things consumers are most unhappy about (including even airlines, banks, etc.).

I will be the first to admit that Facebook does not satisfy my every wish. However, with 700M members, half of whom access the site every single day, it’s hard to believe that consumers are that dissatisfied with the experience.

One plausible explanation, however, is that consumers simply have no idea what they what or what makes them happy. The best web designers and user experience architects have known this for years. If you really want a website that outperforms, you have to be brilliant in crafting the information architecture, design, layout, user flow, etc. Then, you have to study the analytics that represent your visitors’ subconscious behavior on the site to optimize. If you rely on users’ self reported preferences you will arrive at all kinds of wrong answers about what you should do differently.

Wether you are at Facebook reading this or just thinking about how you balance Analytics with self reported information from your audiences, it’s probably best to take these kind of studies with a grain of salt. When users are real unhappy, they have no problem leaving (MySpace, NetFlix, etc.)

By: Paul Dyer

Leader, Media + Engagement

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  1. Great post Paul. My overarching reaction to the survey findings >> It’s a matter of perspective or expectations. Meaning, if you expect Facebook to be a service (or to provide service), then you’re going to be frustrated and low satisfaction is completely understandable. If you think of it as utility, similar to any given email client, it’s pretty much what it needs to be for the average user. It finds, suggests, connects me to people (and orgs/brands/groups) that I may or may not want to reconnect with. It provides several tools for me to start a group around a shared passion, privately message “friends” without needing to find their email, quickly chat with one or more folks, and spread a hilarious video around the world at the speed of sound. It helps people find comfort in difficult times, amplifies everyday celebrations, makes you feel like a rockstar on your birthday, and so much more. What’s not to love?! ?

    Sure you can point to the privacy mishaps they’ve had over the years, but I’m not convinced John & Jane Q Public could tell you any level of detail around the issues, just the mega nerds & bleeding edge/industry adopters in our world.

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