Customer satisfaction at all-time high for fed Web sites

Government Web sites hit an all-time high in the second quarter of 2006 on a four-year-old customer satisfaction index, after a slight drop in the previous quarter, measurements show.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index shows that the Web sites earned an overall score of 74 points on the 100-point scale, a 0.7 percent increase from last quarter after a 0.5 decrease to 73.5 out of 100 in the first quarter of 2006.

ACSI measured 92 Web sites this quarter and found 20 of them rating 80 points or higher. The groups considers Web sites that hit the 80-point threshold to be emphasizing citizen and customer satisfaction.

Moreover, 49 percent of sites measured in both quarters of 2006 showed improvements. However, no site had more than a three-point jump. In the first quarter of 2006, 31 percent of sites’ satisfaction scores increased.

ACSI found 24 percent of sites showed no change in points, while 27 percent declined.

“As citizens continue to utilize the online channel in higher numbers, the improvements in online government are encouraging,” said Claes Fornell, director of the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan and founder of ACSI.

Of the top-rated Web sites, the Social Security Administration’s Internet Social Security Benefits Application site earned 88 points, the highest total. The agency’s Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs site earned 87 points.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute site; Diseases and Conditions Index; and NIH’s National Library of Medicine site, MedlinePlus, each scored 85 points, according to ASCI.

“The success of MedlinePlus…shows that the federal government, and specifically the [NIH], can provide the public with reliable and well-organized health information via the World Wide Web,” said Robert Mehnert, communications director at NIH’s National Library of Medicine.

Fornell said federal Web sites’ point increases should not make agencies complacent.

“When federal Web sites commit to collect and act on the ‘voice of the customer,’ they can focus their resources on areas that will have the most impact on satisfaction and future behavior,” said Larry Freed, author of the ACSI report and president and chief executive officer of ForeSee Results, the company that measured the survey’s results.

The 92 sites participating this quarter are divided into four categories according to the site’s primary function: Portals/Department Main; News/Information; E-commerce/Transactions; and Recruitment/Careers. Aggregate scores increased for all four categories.

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