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Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid...Oh, Never Mind

The 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Business Report is out. The report is the product of the research firm ForeSee Results. The research firm uses data provided by the University of Michigan. Analysts argue that the report should sound an alarm for Google and Facebook, two of the web’s most popular sites. Apparently, the companies are not doing as good a job as they have in the past with privacy policies and ease of use of their web sites. The report’s scores are set so that a score under 70 is considered poor. Facebook gets a rating of 64, despite the fact that it is the largest and fastest growing social networking service in the U.S. Google gets a rating of 80. This rating is down from 86 a year ago. What are we to make of this?

Not much.

If you went out today and purchased an automobile that had the styling, operating capabilities and characteristics of an automobile from 1960, you would be severely disappointed. You would compare that car to today’s car and find the older car sorely lacking. How, then, did anyone sell a car in 1960? They sold cars in 1960 because they didn’t have the automobiles of 2010 to compete with those cars. The relevant comparison is not an absolute measure. It is only a relative measure. We have to view Facebook and Google against their competition, not against an absolute standard. (See “Video #70: Overview of Products and Services Part 2: What to Expect” on StrategyStreet.com.)

When you look at these two companies against their closest competitors, they come out rather well. Facebook’s “dismal” 64 rating compares with its nearest rival, MySpace, with its rating of 63. Google’s “falling” rating of 80 compares with Microsoft’s Bing at 77 and Yahoo at 76. The sky is not falling. (See the Perspective, “How Customers Buy” on StrategyStreet.com.)

In any competitive market, the standard is not absolute performance, but relative performance. If a company’s relative performance begins to fall, it will lose market share and you can expect falling quality rankings to account for much of the market share loss. An absolute standard is meaningless. Perfection of performance has a cost well beyond what the vast majority of customers would be willing to pay.

Posted 9/2/10

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