Which agency's websites are outscoring Amazon for customer satisfaction?

Customer satisfaction scores for two websites run by the Social Security Administration are the highest in the federal government and even surpass those of the highest-scoring online retailer, Amazon.com, according to new market research.

Amazon historically has led the pack in pleasing customers online with a published score of 89 on the 100-point American Customer Satisfaction Index, according to Larry Freed, president of ForeSee Results Inc. research firm.

But the SSA is doing Amazon one better.

The agency’s iClaim website for filing claims has a satisfaction score of 92 on the index and its Retirement Estimator website scores a 91. The SSA’s Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs is tied with Amazon at 89.

“Three of SSA’s nine measured websites outperform or tie Amazon,” Freed told a House subcommittee on May 9.

The good news comes several days after the agency launched its new personal Social Security Statement online. American adults are invited to register with the agency online to view their personal statement of income and future or current benefits. About 150,000 people have registered since the statement debuted on May 1, Kelly Croft, SSA deputy commissioner for systems, said at the hearing.

High customer satisfaction on the Web helps to lower an agency’s costs by reducing demand for other forms of assistance, such as telephone customer service or walk-in service, Freed said.

Customers with high satisfaction are 92 percent more likely to use the website as a primary channel, 86 percent more likely to recommend it to others and 52 percent more likely to return to the website again, which increases efficiency and lower costs, Freed told the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.

The data for compiling the scores was collected from website users in the first three months of 2012. ForeSee regularly evaluates about 190 federal websites for their customer satisfaction.

Overall, for the nine websites reviewed at the SSA, the average citizen satisfaction score was 82.2, Freed said. That was the highest among all the federal agencies studied, followed by Homeland Security Department, 78.7; Health and Human Services, 78.4; State, 76.4; and Defense, 75.1. The average score for all 190 federal websites measured was 75.2.

The iClaim website did not start out at the top. When it was first measured on the index eight years ago, it scored only 68, Freed said. The agency has made numerous changes over the years, based on citizen input, he said.

“iClaim is an example of an SSA site that has seen tremendous improvement,” he said. “Once one of the lowest-scoring websites in our benchmark, it is now the highest.”

Three other websites at SSA—MyStatement, ApplyforDisability and Scores for Business Services—also compiled scores in the 80s.

Among the lower scorers, the iAppeals website received a 71 on the index and the FAQ website rated a 70. Some citizens misunderstand the goal of the FAQs and appear to believe they will get information about their personal accounts there, Freed said. The SSA currently is redesigning the page.

The SSA’s main Web portal, SocialSecurity.gov, is the lowest scoring at the agency, with a score of 69. Freed suggested that perhaps its broader mission made it harder to meet all customer expectations when arriving at the site.

The SSA’s online scores are beating its offline scores for customer satisfaction. The online average of 82.2 exceeds the offline average of 69.

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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