Facebook - #FAIL in Customer Service - Bad Process, BAD Process

As you well know, I'm not a big fan of the frantic efforts of Facebook to treat its members like assets rather than like customers.  The problem is that while it might be nice to attribute all their errors to the blinding desire of Marc Zuckerberg to capture revenue in some way - including using members like poker chips - it really isn't just that.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

As you well know, I'm not a big fan of the frantic efforts of Facebook to treat its members like assets rather than like customers.  The problem is that while it might be nice to attribute all their errors to the blinding desire of Marc Zuckerberg to capture revenue in some way - including using members like poker chips - it really isn't just that. Its also the culture of Facebook, the processes they use and the methods they teach to interact with customers.  This is one case where you don't blame the software.

I managed to experience the lack of process and best practices with Facebook customer service when my account got hacked about three days ago.

I found that out when I attempted to get in to send a message to someone.  A note came up saying that I was "temporarily suspended" due to suspicious activity in my account. I also began to get tweets from some of my friends telling me that my avatar had been replaced by a  cartoon of a Jessica Rabbit-like person/thing playing poker. In fact, I was told it was Zander Poker - I have no idea what that is.  One of my friends popped me a message through Facebook that she "liked (my) makeover."  But I couldn't get into the account to see this myself.

I figured "okay, what's the automated process to get back in the good graces and lift the suspension and recapture the account?"  The Facebook test?  Identify photos of people who you've friended - there are 7. You need to identify 5 without getting one wrong and can skip 2. The answers are multiple choice.

Seems fine? No problem?  Wrong - big time. First of all, who out there among you can identify by sight ALL of your Facebook friends. As most of us who use Facebook a lot, we have a substantial portion of friends who are called, in the jargon "weak ties" meaning they are not our BFFs.  They are people who we know through another person, or through business who we run across sometimes but not all the time - OR they might be people we've reconnected with via Facebook after 30 or 40 years or 10 years - who, in that time, have changed quite a bit when it comes to their appearance.

The way that Facebook handles it seems to be to take a random photo out of one of the friend's albums and then put a line square around the face and give you a multiple choice as to who it is (about 5-6 names). Among the random shots chosen are baby pictures, class pictures of when your weak tie friend was in 7th grade, or the box is framed around a person who is not them at all.  When the person isn't your bosom buddy particularly this might make it hard to figure out who the picture is, n'est ce pas?

Needless to say, I got that wrong about 10,000 times.

The next question is a security question - no problem right?  Well, they asked me one - and only one - "What is your least favorite nickname?"   First, I don't remember ever answering that question at any point. The reason? I don't have a "least favorite nickname."  I've had one nickname beyond permutations of Paul like Paulie or PG, and I tried that one in all possible ways it could be written.  Didn't work.

Then a note pops up that said, "Forgot the answer to your question?" lt was highlighted so you could click on it. Of course, I did, stupidly thinking that this was an alternate way of getting back in.  It took you to a place where you had them send a security code to either your email address or your cell phone. Then you were to put it in a box.  I had it sent to my email. First, I cut and paste it in. Rather than solving my dilemma and getting me back in since I successfully did that - it just sent me back to the question that I couldn't seem to answer! So I was back where I started.

You might think at this point - well, Greenberg, thing is, its not Facebook's fault that you can't identify all the 650 people you've friended. Or can't answer the question that they asked You are 60 years old which of course, means that your faculties are not as, ahem "evolved" as they once were.

I wish it were that but first, can you identify the baby picture of someone you've friended you've never met? Second, I don't have that kind of least liked nickname which means it stands to reason I didn't answer that question.  The only nickname I ever had didn't work in four different permutations - which is all that was possible.  Plus when you got the picture answers wrong the response was that you were "incorect." Yeah, that's their spelling.

So I did what I thought I should do - call customer support to help me. Except that they don't have any way to reach a human being. There is no live customer support at all. (I'm told that Google is like this too).  I asked them to help me restore things.

It took them about 12 hours to respond (9:12pm, 1/26) and they told me to validate my email address and thus ownership of the account by responding and they would help me restore the account.  I did that (10:44pm, 1/26).

Imagine my surprise when I went to the account again and found that it wasn't suspended anymore. "Yay" you might think? "Nay" is what I thought because it wasn't suspended but disabled - meaning they had removed the account altogether.  This prompted a number of emails and tweets from friends asking if we still were because I had disappeared entirely.

I sat and waited for a further response and finally in mid day sent a note saying, "hey man, where are you guys? I'm waiting, waiting, waiting and you aren't responding to me - yet you made it worse."

I didn't hear from them until the next day at 1:57am (that would be 1/28) and then they told me that

"We have detected suspicious activity on your Facebook account (PG Note: duh) and have reset your password as a security precaution. Your account has been reactivated and you should be able to access it now."

Then gave me a link to handle the problem. When I went to the link to put in my permanent shiny new password,  lo and behold, I was "temporarily suspended due to suspicious activity on the account." Admittedly a step up from disabled but back to where I was when this all started.

I fired off another note - let's just leave it at it wasn't friendly.  In the meantime, I went it and tried the 7 photo contest and after 2 tries actually got it and restored my account - no thanks to Facebook Security.

I did get a response saying -"sorry about the inconvenience. When I look at the account it seems to be active."

Needless to say, I sent off a letter saying "yeah, that's because I finally solved your test before you responded to me."

I realize the Facebook security person was well-intended and I hold no ill will toward him. But my customer experience sucked basically because of the entire process they have set up which makes restoration of a hacked account far too difficult coupled with an inability to speak to a live person coupled with exceptionally slow response times to emails and queries.  The Facebook process is broken and they are going to have to figure out how to fix it.  Do I have suggestions? Of course, but they will cost Facebook millions - with phone available customer support and a metric that measures First Contact Resolution and the speed to that resolution.  More than that, but you get the idea. They need to fix their process or they won't stay the leading social network.  I love using Facebook and am happy to accept that they use my profile as an asset that I license to them while I'm a member. But my profile is the asset, not me. I'm human and the customer experience has to be the kind that makes people like me feel good or someday me and others like me won't let them use our profiles as assets because we won't be members of Facebook anymore.

For now, a big #FAIL. I hope they can fix this.

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