Users' e-gov wish lists shift in new satisfaction index

Citizen satisfaction with government Web sites has remained relatively flat through three quarters of 2006, but users have shifted their expectations from sites, according to a quarterly index released today.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index’s E-Government Satisfaction Index shows satisfaction ratings on 95 government Web sites scored 73.7 on a 100-point scale, slipping 0.4 points since last quarter.

The decline continues a trend of relatively stagnant satisfaction with government sites in the past year, said Larry Freed, president and chief executive officer of ForeSee Results, which helps produce the e-government index.

Since the third quarter of 2005, the aggregate citizen satisfaction score for the Web sites has varied by only a half-point — from a low of 73.5 in the third quarter of 2005 and first quarter of 2006 to a high of 74 in the second quarter of 2006.

Although satisfaction has been invariable, users have reported changes in the Web site elements they find important.

The index measured what citizens felt were top priorities for government Web sites that would have the greatest positive impact on satisfaction and loyalty.

The look and feel of a Web site has consistently been seen as a top priority for improvement for 29 percent to 37 percent of sites, but this quarter that measure dropped to 19 percent.

Tasks/transactions went from being considered a priority for 90 percent of sites last quarter to only 72 percent of sites this quarter.

Functionality is users’ top priority for 52 percent of sites this quarter — the largest percentage recorded since measurements began a year ago.

“As citizens become more Internet-savvy, the expectations regarding functionality increase, and government sites must strive to meet the higher standards set by the best sites in the private sector,” Freed said.

Search functions remain a top priority for 82 percent of Web sites, which is the highest percentage. However, that number is down 10 percent from a year ago.

Content is a top priority for 8 percent of users, the smallest percentage. In 2005, it was the top priority for 3 percent. Government sites often have a monopoly on the content they provide and the source is highly trustworthy, so improving satisfaction with content will have relatively little effect on increasing overall satisfaction, Freed said.

Image is the only element that has not increased its score since measuring began. Its score decreased from a 79 in the third quarter of 2005 to 78 this quarter, according to the index.

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