Users more likely to recommend Fed sites

The American Customer Satisfaction Index

More government Web site users are likely to recommend sites, signaling an improvement in sites and e-government services, according to a survey released today.

The e-government satisfaction report, led by the University of Michigan and ForeSee Results Inc., scores Web sites using the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) methodology used for commercial ones. According to the quarterly report, government Web sites rival their commercial counterparts in customer satisfaction.

"A groundswell of focused activity by federal government agencies is producing e-government that is at least effective, and in some cases, almost standard-setting even relative to the private sector," the report states.

This quarter, 36 sites were scored, up from 22 in September. The scores, based on a 100-point scale, ranged from 48 to 86, but showed general improvement. One aspect measured was the likelihood that users would recommend a site. Sites that scored a 70 or higher had an average recommend score of 82. Those that scored below a 70 still had recommend scores of 72. This shows increased usage of e-government services, the report states.

"E-government has reached a tipping point," Anne Kelly, director of the Federal Consulting Group, which administers the ACSI for agencies, said in a statement. "President Bush's management agenda is getting serious attention."

As more sites are scored, fewer are receiving failing grades, the report shows. More than half the sites scored 70 or higher, compared to 41 percent last quarter. Sites scoring below 60 dropped from 18 percent to 9 percent.

The highest scorers were health-related sites from the Department of Health and Human Services, such as MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine; the National Women's Health Information Center site,; and the Spanish-language version of MedlinePlus. They scored 86, 83 and 82, respectively. The Education Department's Free Application for Federal Student Aid site also scored an 86.

These sites did well because they are trusted sources for health information and resemble the look and navigation capabilities users expect from commercial sites, the report states. Higher-scoring sites tended to have a central focus and were customer-driven in search and navigation. For example, job-search sites, such as the CIA's and State Department's recruitment sites also scored high.

General agency sites didn't fare as well, and are challenged by fewer users looking for broad information about one agency, the report states. The lower-scoring sites were those of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Transportation Department and the General Services Administration, scoring 48, 55 and 56, respectively.

By comparison, the ACSI also rates commercial sites, and Inc. received an 88 and Google scored an 82.


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