E-gov makes customers happy

Government-wide Customer Satisfaction ? Results of the 2000 Survey

A federal customer satisfaction survey reveals that students and parents are delighted to be able to apply for education loans online.

Taxpayers, ordinarily surly, report much greater satisfaction now that they can file their returns online instead of on paper.

And travelers are praising a State Department service that enables them apply for passports online.

The Internet and e-government are helping boost "customer" satisfaction with several federal agencies, according to a survey that questioned 8,179 Americans about 100 different government services.

Overall, federal agencies earned a 68.6 satisfaction rating out of a possible 100. That compares with a 71.2 rating earned by private industry. Satisfaction with Internet-based companies range from a 56 earned by America Online to 84 for Amazon.com Inc.

The government's customer satisfaction rate for 2000 was the same as its rate for 1999, while satisfaction with the private sector dropped slightly, from 71.9, according to the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, which commissioned the survey.

"It is clear from comments and feedback that those agencies which use electronic government and the Internet as part of their strategy to provide services score better," said NPR Director Morley Winograd. "The best example is the IRS," where taxpayers who file returns electronically rate their satisfaction 30 points higher than those who file on paper, he said.

Satisfaction with the Office of Student Financial Assistance program jumped seven points in a year — to 70.0 — partly as a result of allowing for more online loan applications, he said.

But Internet services were just some of many elements that contribute to — or detract from — customers' satisfaction with government services. Courtesy and professionalism of government employees, cleanliness of federal facilities and prompt delivery of services also count.

And not all the marks earned by the Internet were positive. Survey participants said government Web site organization needs improvement.

Agency Webmasters, who might have been inclined to "just dump information on the site, now realize they have to make the information more findable," an NPR official said.

Overall, federal Web sites earned a 7.5 rating on a scale up to 10.

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