Citizen satisfaction with government Web sites stalls

Citizen satisfaction with government Web sites dropped slightly for the first quarter of 2006, the first decrease since the beginning of 2005, according a quarterly survey index. But despite the overall decline, satisfaction with individual sites rose substantially.

This past quarter, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index showed aggregate citizen satisfaction for the 91 Web sites measured at 73.5 out of 100, a decline of nearly 0.5 percent from the score of 73.9 measured in the fourth quarter of 2005.

Some sites, however, showed marked improvements in customer satisfaction, including the Internal Revenue Service's site, which rose five percentage points from 68 percent to 73 percent. Other agencies showing improvements include the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Archives and Records Administration’s Access to Archival Databases.

Also, despite the essentially flat satisfaction score over two consecutive quarters, overall satisfaction has improved by 2.2 percent in the past year.

This quarter, 14 sites, or 15 percent of those measured, have scores of 80 or higher. Of these sites, 12 have maintained scores of 80 or higher since they were first measured, according to the index. However, 25 sites scored 70 or below this quarter, with an average score of 65.6, survey results showed.

This is not yet cause for concern, according to the authors of the ACSI report. "Over the longer term … citizen satisfaction with e-government has improved at a competitive pace with online private-sector sites measured by the ACSI, which is commendable given budget constraints and regulatory restrictions faced by e-government sites,” the ACSI report states.

The report touted the success of the IRS.gov Web site, which increased its score since 2005. The IRS has been emphasizing electronic services for taxpayers. Currently it has a goal of having 80 percent of taxpayers file online. The ACSI report is one tool the agency uses in improving its online offerings, said Susan Smote, the IRS’ director of Internet development.

"We use a variety of Web monitoring tools and respected measurement services to gauge our effectiveness, including ACSI," she said. "ACSI allowed us to identify specific elements of the IRS.gov site that were underperforming and tackle our most urgent issues."

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