In a rare, muted moment of good news for Google‘s company-wide focus on social networking, a new report shows Google+ beating Facebook handily in customer satisfaction even as it struggles to attract and maintain active users.

Image: Studio Lévy and Sons (public domain)The authors of the American Customer Satisfaction Index interview 70,000 consumers annually to report public sentiment towards a variety of services and industries. Among e-businesses, Facebook — already the lowest scoring company in the category — fell an additional eight percentage points, to 61 out of 100, while Google+ started strong with a score of 78.

Researchers chalked Google+’s warm reception — at least among people who actually use it — to a perception of light advertising and a strong mobile product. Conversely, key complaints about Facebook were in the same areas, with respondents airing annoyance with ads and privacy concerns. Users’ main gripe with Facebook, though, is its frequently-changing layout.

“Facebook’s drop coincides with the release of its Timeline profile, a significant change to the look and organization of its pages,” reads the report. “Users complain that they cannot opt out of the new profile design. The big drop in user satisfaction – coming on the heels of Facebook’s somewhat disorderly IPO – doesn’t bode well for reversing the company’s sliding stock price.”

At the same time, users are hardly flocking to alternatives: Google+, for example, has attracted some number of users, but has struggled to keep them engaged. That’s not surprising to the authors of the report, who concede that what Facebook lacks in love, it makes up for in inertia.

“There are currently no alternatives in scope and size to Facebook,” they wrote. “Many users have invested significant time in creating their individual social networking spaces from the vast array of friends and connections available through Facebook. As such, switching costs in time and inconvenience are so high that many users continue to accept something with which they are not all that satisfied rather than start over on another social network.”

Google’s customer satisfaction was also strong for its flagship search engine, which scored an 82 — though Microsoft‘s Bing scored just one point lower. Interestingly, overall satisfaction with the e-business sector dropped 1.6 points since last year.

The ACSI report is produced by ForeSee, a customer analytics firm based in Ann Arbor, MI.

Image: Studio Lévy and Sons (public domain)

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