Users comin' on over to e-gov sites

The American Customer Satisfaction Index

Government Web site users are likely to return to the sites and recommend them to other users, according to a customer satisfaction survey scheduled for release today.

This loyalty to government sites, measured by users' likelihood to return, is expected to continue as e-government strives to meet customers' needs, according to the findings of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Index. This fourth installment of the quarterly report, released by the University of Michigan with the American Society for Quality, CFI Group and ForSee Results, measured 53 federal sites.

E-Government sites scored 81 on a 100-point scale in the area of users' likeliness to return, and a 76 in likeliness to recommend -- demonstrating high loyalty, the report analysis states.

"Scores have risen since the fist time these loyalty factors were measured in the third quarter 2003, indicating that government is succeeding in building online relationships with citizens," states the analysis, written by ForeSee Results chief executive officer Larry Freed. "And, these scores are projected to rise as government sites continue to make enhancements to better meet citizens' needs."

Overall scores of the e-government survey for the second quarter of 2004 remained steady from last quarter, but a few sites showed significant progress. The aggregate customer satisfaction score was 70.3, similar to the last report, showing users' increased expectations for federal sites and experience with sophisticated nongovernmental sites.

"Therefore, further distinguishing the Web as the channel of choice' requires meeting, if not exceeding, citizens' needs so that they do not turn to higher cost, less convenient ways of doing business with the government," Freed wrote.

However, e-government customer satisfaction still scores lower than commercial sites, the survey shows. The private sector equivalent of e-government sites, which includes transportation, utilities and financial services, scored a 73.9, three points higher than e-government. Further, the aggregate e-government score, 70.9, is 10 points lower than the overall e-commerce score of 80.9.

Four sites showed significant increase in the customer satisfaction score over the initial measurement in September 2003. The State Department's student Web site, www.future.state.gov, jumped 13 percent to 69; the Federal Aviation Administration's site increased almost 10 percent to a score of 68; the State Department's recruitment site, www.careers.state.gov, rose 8 percent to 79 and the Office of Personnel Management's recruitment site, www.usajobs.opm.gov, rose 7 percent to 76.

Since the first e-government index, 67 percent of the sites measured showed an improvement in customer satisfaction, the survey states. This change can be attributed to using the index as a measurement and management tool. Agencies using the index can get specific feedback on users' needs and focus resources to improve the sites, said Anne Kelly, CEO and director of the Federal Consulting Group, a franchise of the Treasury Department in charge of purchasing the survey for agencies.

"We see agencies embracing ACSI as a leading Web site performance measurement and management tool that provides up-to-the-minute, voice-of-the-citizen input on what citizens care most about," Kelly said in statement. "Agencies have turned a corner in terms of the sophistication with which they deliver online services and are succeeding with boosting utilization of e-government channels."

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