August 09, 2012 | Krystel Harvey

Let Them Eat Newsfeed

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So the world is having a meltdown…

Or so it would seem if you live in Silicon Valley, like I do, and have been gawping at stock prices going down faster than a fat kid running from Tony Perkis at Camp Hope (bonus points if you’re a Heavyweights fan).

Zynga is down 40%. Facebook even more so, and continues to plummet. The companies that made us the cool kids on the playground – heroes kicking butt and taking names later while the rest of the country was riding the recession merry-go-round – are FAILING.

It’s BAD.

It’s not quite dot-com-bubble-bursting BAD, but the explosion is not too far off the horizon. The signs have been evident for quite some time that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

So, where do I start? Where did IT all start?

Let’s see. You can start with the crazy IPOs with disappointing results. Or, the millions of dollars of venture capitalist money pumped into pipe dreams (Color, anyone?). And then there were the parties…oh, the parties.

Take Digg for example. They took a total of $45 million in VC money. Spent it hosting extravagant, wasteful parties (I know, because I went to all of them), turning their offices into a rocking dorm, flying out world famous DJs, and taking expensive company retreats and vacations. Then (wait for it)…sold themselves for $500,000!

The moment when you know something will never be the same . . .

Let’s be frank, here. The Silicon Valley has jumped the shark and this is just the beginning of things to come.

Why?

The short answer is hubris.

The longer answer is that no one in Silicon Valley cares about customer satisfaction.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp were created in the image of their users. They gave us a place to share stuff, to feel connected – a sense of belonging. Whether you were trying to be heard, trying to find a job, or trying to find a good Thai restaurant these great companies – these giants of the social media realm – stood on the mountain tops with their arms wide open. And we came running. They broke down social barriers and connected us to communities of people just like us. It was what we WANTED. It was what we NEEDED.

Things seemed to be on the upswing again. Money was flowing into startup after startup, and the word “social” was being uttered in every third sentence. Kids became kings. Twenty-two-year-olds were in charge of businesses, touching more people than any celebrity or politician. Silicon Valley was alive again – resurrected like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.

With wads of paper money stashed away with promises of much more, the tides turned. The heroes of recess became the bullies – tyrants. Facebook made sweeping changes as if on a whim, completely disregarding its users, its customers. The clean canvas of self-expression was no more. Cluttered with the newsfeed and ads, it is barely recognizable. Product guys add new features just because they can or want to. And now, the brilliant product that drew us in like moths to a flame is an out-of-control monster. Little did we know we’d get so burned.

With inflated wallets came inflated egos and the Silicon Valley has ultimately became the Silicon Versailles. Delusional children throw parties as fast as they can come up with company ideas. Wasting money has become a way to idly past time. Call it what you will. I call it immaturity. Insolence. Even Bravo is turning Silicon Valley into the next Real Housewives of something or other, signifying that we’ve only become caricatures of ourselves.

The kings are at play and the customer is no longer the focus. My question is: where’s the cake? The customers deserve something. After all, it was our personal data that spawned these billion dollar valuations – our willingness to give our lives and time to these giants and share their existence across the world to grandmothers in Japan.

Customer satisfaction is a leading indicator of a company’s financial success. This is fact. What we are seeing today is the proof of it. All these companies we had high hopes for have lost sight of the truth. And it’s such a simple truth – a satisfied customer base is a company’s greatest asset. When making changes to the customer experience, you can’t do whatever YOU want and then pat yourself on the back for your improvements.

For a long time now, customers’ have been frustrated with Facebook in general, and specifically with their security policies. Then there’s Zynga’s lack of improvement in the mobile space, and, believe me, the list goes on. According to our research, Facebook underperforms 95% of the federal websites measured. This didn’t happen overnight; it’s been a steady decline for some time now. Thanks to the inflation created by venture capitalists, investment banks, and hype, Facebook and Zynga have continued to egomaniacally crap on their users. Everyone here worships Eric Ries’ “The Lean Startup.” And it’s wrong. Don’t be so afraid of sitting back on your throne and taking stock of what customers’ actually want instead of continuously throwing change at them, just because you can and want to stay innovative.

Hopefully, these financial failures will be a wakeup call. And maybe, just maybe, the kings will come down from their high perch and institute changes – real changes – to become more customer-centric. All of them need to have a measurement system in place that can capture their visitors’ voices as well as accurately and precisely analyze their satisfaction in a predictive way. These companies need to manage themselves forward with ForeSee before there is a full-on revolution.

If not…off with their heads!

About the Author

Krystel Harvey is ForeSee’s Regional Manager in the San Francisco Bay Area. With seven years of experience in the customer experience space, she has a particular passion for the retail and internet services industries. Krystel holds an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and a master’s degree from Stanford University.

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