Citizens warm to fed Web sites

Citizens' satisfaction with e-government increased for a third straight quarter, surpassing their satisfaction with transacting business by telephone or in a federal office, according to the latest national rating of federal Web sites.

The University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found that satisfaction with federal Web sites inched up 0.6 percent to 73.9 out of 100 points in the fourth quarter. The aggregate e-government satisfaction score for 2005 was 2.5 percent higher than a year ago.

Improving federal Web site navigation and search functions continues to have the greatest payoff in improved scores, according to a report on the satisfaction index released this week.

The growth of e-government “isn’t surprising as more citizens embrace the Web channel as a convenient, efficient, and increasingly satisfying way to interact with the government,” said Larry Freed, president and chief executive officer of ForeSee Results, who wrote the report. The rise in satisfaction levels corresponds to the continued evolution of federal government Web sites, he said.

Citizens rated the federal government 71.3 overall, a decline of 1.1 percent compared with a year ago and less than the e-government satisfaction score of 73.9.

The number of federal Web sites that earned user satisfaction scores of 80 or higher this quarter is further evidence of e-government’s evolution, according to the ForeSee report. Sixteen, or 18 percent, of the 89 measured sites earned satisfaction scores of at least 80 out of 100. Eleven of those sites belong to the Department of Health and Human Services, and three sites are from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The Social Security Administration had the two highest-scoring sites in the index: “Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs” and “Internet Social Security Benefits Application.” Both scored 88 this quarter.

“Federal e-government is continuing to make improvements to better satisfy users,” said Claes Fornell, director of the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan and founder of the ACSI.

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