Facebook Makes Customer Service Very Difficult for Developers

facebook customer serviceResponsive customer service is of great importance to Facebook and app developers alike. However, the inherent limitations of the platform make establishing channels for user feedback an unnecessarily difficult task.

Unsurprisingly, given Facebook users’ familiarity with wall-to-wall communications with friends, for most applications the wall is the most active channel of user feedback. Most users post on application walls with a question or piece of feedback and expect the developer to reply. Responses can of course be posted directly to app walls as well, but without a means of notifying users, more often than not replies go unread.

One solution to this problem would be to use private messages to directly respond to individual wall postings, but Facebook’s messaging limits make this approach unworkable (the exact caps are unknown). In my experience, being able to communicate through this channel has been valuable, particularly when compared to alternatives like support email and the Reviews wall. The reward was not worth risking my account, however, as I frequently hit the message limits – and in one instance, actually had my account disabled entirely.

The addition of the Reviews app to application pages has been a source of some controversy, as fake reviews have popped up with some regularity. While planted posts were certainly not the most desirable side effect of the Reviews wall, spam is a more serious problem. Spammers openly adopted the Reviews wall, and today their posts litter most application pages. Spammers add five star ratings to encourage developers to not delete their posts as those ratings can drive up an application’s average rating, while undermining the validity of the entire rating system in the process.

Additionally, for applications focused on product reviews and ratings (like Flixster, Visual Bookshelf, etc.), the reviews wall is a source of confusion for some users, as individuals write and post reviews of books or films and mistakingly confuse the Reviews wall with the actual applications. Finally, some Reviews merit a developer response, but as with the wall the only means of truly replying is via private message. Given these problems, it comes as no surprise that many developers take steps to reduce the Reviews wall’s visibility, usually by moving it to the bottom of the page beneath the wall and discussion board.

Not all is lost, however, as the discussion board is a useful channel for user feedback. Replies to posts generate notifications that ensure that conversations remain open. The discussion board is evidence that workable tools can facilitate meaningful customer service which ultimately benefits both users and developers. Why can’t Facebook make customer service easier for developers?