Citizens losing satisfaction with feds, but web services fare OK

Online tools helped buoy sinking satisfaction levels as 2015 saw federal customers growing less and less pleased with what Uncle Sam had to offer.

Shutterstock image (by solarseven): digital connection with people.

Citizens are less happy with government services than they've been at any point since President Barack Obama took office, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Based on a survey of 2,079 people, the ACSI benchmark gave the federal government an overall satisfaction score of 63.9 in 2015 -- down from a peak of 68.9 in 2008.

It's not all bad news, though. Although the government's overall ACSI score continued to slump from 2014 to 2015, respondents had the same confidence in federal websites they'd had the year before and noted that information was easier to find.

Continuing the trend of recent years, the IRS' e-filing offering and the Education Department's Free Application for Federal Student Aid web portal got high marks of 76 and 82, respectively.

People who filed their taxes on paper, on the other hand, gave the IRS an abysmal score of 56.

The IRS' parent agency, the Treasury Department, had an overall score of 55, the lowest in the rankings. Next came the Justice Department at 59 and the Department of Veterans Affairs at 60.

On the whole, respondents were generally more satisfied with the private sector than they were with Uncle Sam. But the Interior Department nabbed a healthy 75 ACSI score, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's 91 put it above the private sector's top performers. (Amazon, Nordstrom and Chick-fil-A had a three-way tie at 86.)

For civil servants, the survey can serve as part wake-up call, part hopeful note.

"Deteriorating customer satisfaction was widespread in 2015," said ACSI Chairman and Founder Claes Fornell, adding that the private sector and political arenas saw similar downturns. "But if [federal agencies'] small gains in the drivers of citizen satisfaction take hold or continue to rise, we might finally see a bit of a turnaround."

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