Customer satisfaction with e-gov falls

Agencies increasingly depend on their Web sites to provide information and services to the public. But customer satisfaction with e-government declined in 2007 from the year before, according to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index survey. Still, e-government remains a high point for overall customer satisfaction with government.

The decline in e-government approval reflects lower customer satisfaction with the government as a whole and the fact that many federal Web sites joined the index this year, said Errol Hau, senior director of government markets at ForeSee Results. The company conducted the survey, which now covers 100 sites, and released the results Dec. 17.

Citizens also have rising expectations, he said.

“The growth in broadband leads people to expect more use of Web 2.0,” Hau said today at a briefing sponsored by the Treasury Department’s Federal Consulting Group (FCG). “Expectations are always on the rise.”

The agency sites that garnered the highest ratings were the Social Security Administration’s online benefits application, the site that helps people with Medicare prescription drug plans and SSA’s online business services; the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus; and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The Homeland Security Department’s Federal Emergency Management Agency Map Service Center and Map Modernization program had the lowest satisfaction ratings.

Federal Web sites received a satisfaction rating of 72.9 on a 100-point scale in the fourth quarter of 2007, compared with 73.9 in the same quarter in 2006. Private-sector business sites have also declined in satisfaction as consumers’ expectations rise, he said.

Satisfaction with their online experience brings users back to federal Web sites. Customer satisfaction also translates into increased trust and confidence in government, Hau said.

“Agencies can increase their scores by making it a priority in 2008,” he said. Most agencies need to improve their search functions, tasks and transactions, Hau added. The survey also measured satisfaction with government sites’ content, functionality, look and feel, and ease of navigation.

Customer satisfaction with overall interactions with agencies –- on the phone, face-to-face, via mail and online -- fell from 72.3 in 2006 to 68 in 2007. Because the University of Michigan changed its methodology this year, it’s difficult to compare the score with last year’s rating, but going forward, the score should better reflect people’s experience with government, said Forrest Morgeson, the university’s chief ACSI statistician.

The survey links customer expectations and perceived quality to customer satisfaction, which affects critical outcomes such as customer trust and confidence in government.

The Interior Department, which is responsible for the national parks, garnered the highest satisfaction level for customer interactions, while DHS, which includes the Transportation Security Administration, had the lowest score.

Some agencies use the customer satisfaction index to improve program performance and critical outcomes, said Ron Oberbillig, chief operating officer at FCG. The Agriculture Department and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. received awards from the group for their use of ACSI for planning and assessing program improvement.

PBGC has an interdepartmental customer satisfaction working group that includes senior managers and program officers. The group analyzes results and comments from the survey to determine which elements of its programs need improvement and incorporates them into the planning process, said Wilmer Graham, director of PBGC’s Strategic Planning and Evaluation Department.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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