Consumers wowed by Web sites

The American Customer Satisfaction Index

A handful of federal agency Web sites, specifically those dealing with health and job recruiting, are among the top performers in customer satisfaction, even rivaling the leading commercial sites, according to a survey released last week.

Health information sites, such as the Department of Health and Human Services' MedlinePlus, and job sites, such as those of the State Department and the CIA, scored high marks and showed improvements in customer service, the

E-Government Satisfaction Index, part of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), shows.

The voluntary quarterly survey measured 44 agency Web sites — nine more sites than the last review. The increase in surveyed sites reflects agencies' growing interest in using performance metrics to determine how to improve online customer service. The ACSI report is produced by the University of Michigan in partnership with the American Society for Quality, CFI Group and ForeSee Results.

"Most of the agencies really do get it in terms of 'we need to listen to the citizen,'" said Larry Freed, president and chief executive officer of ForeSee Results.

HHS' MedlinePlus site earned an 86 on the 100-point scale, the highest score of any e-government site measured and only two points below Amazon.com Inc.'s site, according to the report. A Spanish-

language version of MedlinePlus and the National Women's Health Information Center's site (www.4woman.gov) also received high marks.

Health information sites face a particular challenge due to the large volume of specific information in the field, Freed said. However, many health officials have been focused on presenting that information in a citizen-friendly format for many years, he said. At HHS, officials held studies, focus groups and usability tests before launching MedlinePlus six years ago.

"We have been working very hard at it for many, many years," said Eve-Marie Lacroix, chief of the Public Services Division at HHS' National Library of Medicine within the National Institutes of Health. "We've really tried to listen to the

customers."

Job sites have become increasingly important as many government personnel reach retirement age and the pressure to hire a quality, skilled workforce increases, Freed said. The CIA's recruitment site scored an 80, and the State Department's job site scored a 79. Both performed well compared to private-sector job sites. The main government job site, USAJobs, scored a 73, which leaves room for improvement but shows progress since its relaunch last fall, according to the report.

State Department officials redesigned their site about a year ago based on data gathered over nine months from the ACSI survey, said Diane Castiglione, State's director of recruitment. Focusing on site navigation, officials set out to ensure that the site was user-friendly, and the score — up two points since the site was first measured in August 2002 — reflects its progress.

"The site is a vital component to everything we do because all the other advertising we do is geared to directing people to the Web site," Castiglione said.

Lower scores may mean agency officials have a lot of work to do, but the first step is measuring the sites' performance, Freed said. "You can't fix what you don't know is broken," he said.

Beyond a full report of site performance and overall customer satisfaction, the survey has a built-in cause-and-effect function that shows which drivers can be changed to have the greatest impact, Freed said, adding that this indicates where officials should focus their attention.

***

Ranking satisfaction

The latest quarterly report from the E-Government Satisfaction

Index, part of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), measured the performance and satisfaction of 44 federal agencies' Web sites. Each was scored on a 100-point scale in four categories, and the ACSI average is 75. The scores show many sites, particularly health and recruiting ones, rival those in the commercial sector. Below are the highest and lowest scores in each area.

Information/news: 23 sites surveyed

Health and Human Services' MedlinePlus (medlineplus.gov) 86

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's MapFinder (www.oceanservice.noaa.gov/mapfinder) 47

Recruitment/careers: 4 sites surveyed

CIA (www.cia.gov/employment) 80

AmeriCorps (www.americorps.org) 70

E-government agency or department: 15 sites surveyed

NASA (www.nasa.gov) 78

Transportation (www.dot.gov) 55

E-commerce: 2 sites surveyed

U.S. Mint's online catalog (catalog.usmint.gov) 79

General Services Administration (www.gsaadvantage.gov) 67

Source: American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Government Satisfaction Index

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1986, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group