Survey says people prefer online federal customer service

Online service pleases customers 63 percent of the time versus 45 percent for phones

People who deal with federal agencies online are significantly more satisfied with the customer service they receive than are those who interact by phone, according to a survey released today by MeriTalk, an online government information technology community.

The survey was based on interviews with 1,000 people and was funded by MeriTalk and RightNow Technologies, a vendor of customer experience management solutions.

The services people sought online and via phone included applying for federal student aid or disaster relief and getting information about taxes and airport security.


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Sixty-three percent of those who used agency Web sites had a positive experience, while only 45 percent of those who used phones had a positive experience, the study found.

“Agencies offer self-service options via both phone and Web, and Americans use them with equal frequency,” the report states. "Those using the Web, however, are significantly more satisfied."

Eighty-five percent of the survey respondents said federal agencies ought to provide more information and make more services available online.

“A majority of citizens leverage the Web as their first channel to find information from agencies to address a variety of interests and questions,” said Kevin Paschuck, public-sector vice president at RightNow.

Among the survey's other findings:

  • Eighty-three percent of respondents said federal agencies can improve customer service.
  • Forty-two percent said they would pay $10 each per year for better government service.
  • Forty percent said poor staff training is the greatest barrier to service.
  • Thirty-eight percent said lack of communication is the greatest barrier to service.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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