Digital government

Website problems drive drop in satisfaction with government

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Citizens are increasingly using government websites as a portal to federal services, and dissatisfaction with the performance and functionality of those sites is leading to a drop in overall satisfaction with the federal government, according to a recent survey.

Americans are more satisfied with the customer service they receive from airlines and mobile-phone companies than from the federal government, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index survey of 1,448 consumers. The federal government satisfaction score, based on ASCI's benchmarking of survey answers, was 66. Only Internet service providers ranked below feds, at 65.

According to the survey, about 35 percent of people most frequently access government services online, compared to 19 percent who list the phone as their primary channel for government interactions and 11 percent who prefer in-person visits.

"On the one hand, e-government offers an efficient means of delivering public services," said Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and a professor at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. "On the other, burgeoning user demand now makes it more challenging for the federal government to maintain a satisfactory level of service."

The troubled launch of HealthCare.gov contributed to the drop in satisfaction, but the Department of Health and Human Services' score of 66 did not make it the bottom-ranked agency. That honor went to the departments of Treasury (58) and Homeland Security (61), which brought up the rear in terms of customer satisfaction.

However, consumers were pleased with some online government services, such as electronic tax filing, the online federal student aid application hosted by the Education Department and the interface for the National Cemetery Administration at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Furthermore, the ASCI survey revealed a gap between trust in government agencies and trust in the government as a whole. In terms of trust, agencies received a score of 67 on the ASCI scale in 2013, down from 71 in 2012. However, the score for government as a whole -- which includes Congress, the president and the federal courts -- plummeted to 35 in 2013, down from 43 the year before.

"While citizens have minimal trust in the federal government in the aggregate, they still have reasonably high trust in the specific agencies with which they interact," the report states.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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