We’ve been having a problem with our company’s Facebook page over the last few months and getting a response, any response, out of Facebook since May has been non-existent.

There was a ray of hope in the helpful tweets of @wchingya the other day. But ultimately we’re still going to have to contact Facebook, and keep our fingers crossed that at some point they will respond.

But this whole episode got me thinking about Facebook and how it provides customer service. Here are my random thoughts in no particular order.

– just because you are an inherent part of the social networking/social media fabric, doesn’t mean that you necessarily adopt any of the characteristics of social, such as transparency and openness.

– from a customer service perspective, neither does it mean that you actually treat your customers any better than if you were a bricks and mortar company. Ultimately, it’s all about the culture of your organisation.

– Facebook describes itself as: ‘Giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected’. That might be true in terms of the ‘service’ it provides, but don’t confuse that with ‘being’ open.

– 3,427,528 people like this. That’s a lot of people to like a particular topic thread, and I’d be ecstatic if even 0.5% of that number read my blog. But I don’t understand the value of it. 3,427,528 people ‘liking’ something is very different to 3,427,528 finding something useful. Let’s not be taken in by numbers.

– a number of times @Facebook tweets about an outage that they have had on a particular day and apologise for the inconvenience it may have caused. They even provide a link to a more detailed explanation of what went wrong, as well as stating they want to share one big lesson learned (they didn’t actually go on to say what that lesson was, so I guess all of us, including Facebook, are still waiting for that one). I tell you what, I read one or two of those detailed explanations and I didn’t understand a word of it. All I know is something went wrong for some reason and it affected an unquantifiable amount of people for 2.5 hours. What I can’t understand is why they couldn’t let everyone know that there was a problem as it was happening and keep people updated as they tried to ascertain what the problem was, how it was affecting you, rather than letting you all know there was a problem hours later. Once again the veneer of appearing helpful, open and sharing.

– Comments field: This almost becomes just another place to write another comment, regardless of whether it is associated with the original discussion or not. For someone genuinely wanting to see if the comments help them resolve their problem, much time is wasted reading through all manner of noise. The comment field is almost reduced to a redundant feature, similar to the ‘like this’ feature. Its value lies more in the visible show of perceived customer engagement, than in the reality of actually being of value.

– If Facebook are providing a number of different ways for customers to seek help to real problems via Facebook, what criteria do they use for choosing which problems to actually acknowledge and respond to? In fact I have to ask myself: Do they actually respond?

– Reading through the comments of any customer service related issue or outage notification on Facebook’s Wall, it becomes obvious that as customers adopt the ‘say anything anywhere’ approach, it becomes impossible to actually provide a meaningful customer service response to anything.

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– Was this answer helpful?:  I’m now in Facebook’s Help Center, and clicked on one of the topics at random. I clicked on a few more and every single one has an option to choose whether the answer was helpful or not. I’m not sure why they didn’t simply ask: Did this answer your question? Anyway, I then clicked ‘no’ and was presented with six possible reasons why it might not have been helpful, including ‘other’. The options included:

  1. It doesn’t answer my question
  2. It contains info that is incorrect
  3. It’s too much to read
  4. It’s confusing
  5. I don’t like the answer
  6. Other

I’m not sure how these questions actually help Facebook improve their answers.

If something doesn’t answer my question (option 1), perhaps I’ve asked the wrong question.

If you don’t ask what information is incorrect (option 2) or why something is confusing (option 4), how will you know what to change?

I am not sure how having to read 3-4 lines for an answer will ever be interpreted as ‘too much to read’ (option 3)?

And quite how not liking an answer (option 5) is relevant to anything, I’m not sure?

At least with other (option 6), I finally get an opportunity to actually write why something may not be helpful.

The cynic in me, imagines that for the most part, option 1 – it doesn’t answer my question – probably gets the most clicks. And yet, I’m still left wondering what clicking on this will actually tell Facebook.

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…I’m left with the thought that online self-service is often a guessing game played between customers who know the question, but not the answer, and companies who know the answer, but not the question.

As for Facebook ever answering the question about why our company page admin has gone walkabout, well…

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