Satisfaction with government sites declines

Customer satisfaction with federal Web sites dipped slightly last quarter for the first time in a year, although users are generally more satisfied with the information the government has online, the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index concluded.

The decline in satisfaction appears negligible—only a 0.5 percent slip from the end of 2005—and the survey, written by Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results of Ann Arbor, Mich., noted that overall the online government is still receiving positive reviews.

“While aggregate citizen satisfaction with federal government Web sites stalled this quarter, this is not yet cause for concern unless it becomes a trend in future quarters,” Freed wrote. “Over the longer term, as shown in year-over-year results, 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.”

ACSI measured data from 91 government Web sites and found that satisfaction dropped half a percent to 73.5 percent for the first quarter of 2006.

While this is a slight drop, the number is still 2.2 percent higher than it was one year ago, demonstrating that e-government efforts have had a positive impact, the survey said.

“This increase may not seem that large in light of media focus on e-government and government Web sites,” the report said. “However, the fact that the federal government managed to not only maintain, but improve citizen satisfaction during 2005 is impressive when you consider the hurricanes, war and other challenges faced by the government last year.”

Of particular note, the survey said, are portals operated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS.gov), the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PGBC.gov), the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS.gov) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA.gov).

These sites “have made impressive strides in customer satisfaction since last quarter by acting on ‘voice of customer’ feedback and enhancing their sites to better meet the needs of citizens online,” the survey said.

The report is based on a quarterly performance survey conducted by the American Society for Quality in conjunction with the University of Michigan, the CFI Group and ForeSee Results. Participation by government agencies is voluntary.

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