E-gov services beat offline alternatives on satisfaction study

Satisfaction with e-government is remaining near historic highs and several federal websites are surpassing private sector websites in their scores, according to a new fourth-quarter 2010 study released today by ForeSee Results.

Overall, satisfaction with 111 federal websites scored an average of 75 on the 100-point American Customer Satisfaction index. The overall score has been rising steadily since 2003 and hovering at or near 75 since the third quarter of 2009. The all-time high was 75.3 in the third quarter of 2010.

In comparison, overall satisfaction with federal services dropped from 70.2 percent in 2009 to 65.4 percent in 2010. People "overwhelmingly prefer to engage the government online" in comparison to other channels, the study states.

“E-government remains the bright spot in an otherwise challenging landscape,” wrote Larry Freed, president of Foresee, author of the report. “The importance of e-government cannot be understated. More and more, citizens turn to the web as a starting point when they need to engage the federal government.”

“Satisfaction with federal websites far outshines satisfaction with the overall government, showing that e-gov investments over the last couple of years have paid off,” Freed said.

The highest scores for the fourth quarter of 2010 were earned by three websites run by the Social Security Administration. They include the SSA’s retirement estimator, scoring 90; iClaim, also 90, and SSA’s Medicare assistance site, 88. Their scores each were higher than the highest-scoring private website, Netflix, with a score of 87.

For federal portal websites, the top performers included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration main website, 85; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (Spanish version), 85; National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 84; GobiernoUSA, 83; NASA primary  website, 83; National Cancer Institute main website, 82; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention primary website, 81; and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services main website, 81.

Overall, larger numbers of federal websites are scoring 80 and above on the satisfaction scale, which is considered superior. In 2003, when ForeSee first started doing the measuring, only one of 22 federal websites scored above 80. In the fourth quarter of 2010, 33 out of 111 federal websites scored 80 or above.

The report was based on 275,000 surveys collected in the fourth quarter. ForeSee has been performing the studies since 2003.

Other findings include:

  • People who are highly satisfied with a federal website are 59 percent more likely to trust the agency and 58 percent more likely to participate and express their opinions. High satisfaction increases the likelihood of recommending the site, returning to it or using it as a primary resource.
  • Website search, functionality and transparency are top priorities for improvement.
  • E-government must be prepared to respond to more “digital natives” who grew up on the Web. Their high expectations of e-government may put pressure on satisfaction.

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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