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Google's Secret Weapon: ABF (Anything But Facebook)

With a claimed 750 million users, Facebook's the social networking king. Only, this is a monarch with a potential revolt on hand, with a low enough American Customer Satisfaction Index score to make Business Insider's 19 most hated companies in America list. It's even worse off than Bank of America and a number of utility and cable companies. Oof.

OK, so a low ACSI score isn't the same as being hated. But it does show a huge potential weakness for Facebook. Particularly when determined rival Google has a much higher satisfaction score. Even though Google's strategy has some major flaws, it might still succeed thanks to Facebook's own reputation fail.

A lump of coal in the rough
To put Facebook into context, here's the BI list of the bottom 19 companies, along with associated customer-satisfaction scores:

  • BofA -- 68
  • Dish Network -- 67
  • Cox Communications -- 67
  • Pacific Gas and Electric -- 67
  • JPMorgan Chase -- 67
  • AT&T Mobility -- 66
  • L.A. Dept. of Water & Power -- 66
  • Long Island Power Authority -- 65
  • UnitedHealth -- 65
  • Facebook -- 64
  • Myspace -- 63
  • American Airlines -- 63
  • United Airlines -- 61
  • US Airways -- 61
  • Charter Communications -- 59
  • Comcast -- 59
  • Time Warner -- 59
  • Delta -- 56
  • Pepco -- 54
Quite the Naughty Nineteen. A few caveats, though. BI took the latest score available, whether from last quarter or from 2010 as a whole. But scores can fluctuate wildly: Pepco got a 54 last quarter, but anywhere between 68 and 77 from 2003 through 2010.

Customer satisfaction also doesn't necessarily translate directly into success. Facebook and MySpace are only one ACSI point apart, and yet in different worlds when it comes to consumer popularity.

Furthermore, ACSI just started to track social networks last year. That said, however, this isn't something that Facebook management can blithely shrug off.

Facebook ain't the electric company
One problem that Facebook has is that its business doesn't have the natural protection from competitors that many others on this list have:

"These are not terribly competitive industries, as the switching barriers for most of them are quite high," ACSI's David VanAmburg told us. "In other industries, like the food or clothing sector, the competition is huge. They bend over backwards to make customers happy, because they have to."
No matter how much Facebook integrated itself into the Web, it is still dependent on people choosing to use the service. As the ACSI data shows, many of those people have been disappointed, whether by privacy issues, changes in the user interface, or what have you.

In fact, Facebook's main tool in keeping control is not allowing users to export friends' email addresses, claiming a privacy issue. And while that might protect Facebook from many companies, Google is a different kind of rival, which last month saw a billion unique users, according to data from comScore.

They love us
Even though Facebook only allows users to download data in HTML files, it seems hard to believe that Google couldn't find a way to import that information and match it against Google's own impressive store to identify contacts for easy inclusion, especially when there are already workarounds.

Why might people consider jumping the Facebook ship? Because they like Google more. Facebook's score is 64 and Google's is 80. That's quite a difference -- maybe enough to get a lot of people jumping ship, especially as Google+ has received some pretty strong reviews. Or, as webcomic xkcd puts it:

That might explain the look on this Google+ profile:


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