Revamped government websites boost citizen satisfaction

The best agency sites outscore even Amazon.com, study finds, but plenty of room for improvement remains.

satisfaction survey

Thanks in part to better-functioning, revamped government websites, citizens are increasingly happier with federal services for the second consecutive year, new research has found.

According to a report released Feb. 6 by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the public’s satisfaction with the federal government is up 2.2 percent to 68.4 in 2012 compared to the previous year. Improved federal website quality, combined with a higher number of citizens using these upgraded online services, has been the main driver in citizen satisfaction.

Top 5

Two agencies own the top five federal websites as measured by customer satisfaction. The top five sites and their customer satisfaction scores are:

The report uses a scale from 0 to 100, and compiles responses from 1,500 surveys collected in the fourth quarter of 2012. The index itself was founded by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and is produced by ACSI LLC.

Citizen satisfaction varies widely across federal departments, but the U.S. Mint (95), the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s retiree program (89), the Education Department’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid online service (88), and the Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Assistance loan programs for homeowners and renters got thumbs up, scoring the highest.

The lowest three scores were found at the Federal Aviation Administration (42), Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Public Debt (46), and the Internal Revenue Service (57).

The research shows that communication channels are important to citizen satisfaction, even within lower-performing agencies such as the IRS. For example, taxpayers who file electronically are much more satisfied with IRS services (79) than were paper filers (58).

Resource

Read the full report.

E-government communication channels also matter to citizens, according to the E-Government Satisfaction Index, which ACSI and analytics firm ForeSee produced in conjunction with the release of the ACSI index. Based on nearly 300,000 surveys collected in the fourth quarter, the e-gov report includes scores for 100 federal websites.

The e-gov report found that those who communicate with government using websites (67) or email (66) are more satisfied than those who interact with agencies via phone (65) or printed, mailed materials (62). Highly satisfied citizens are also 92 percent more likely to use the federal website as a main resource; 92 percent are more likely to recommend the site; 63 percent are more likely to trust the agency; 54 percent are more likely to revisit the site; and 47 percent are more likely to interact with the government in the future.

"The data show that citizens are more satisfied with the online channel, and the more satisfied they are, the more likely they are to use it," said Dave Lewan, vice president at ForeSee and co-author of the e-government report. "Now that citizens are accessing government services using mobile devices in addition to the web, government initiatives should address the changing engagement landscape to ensure that citizens are satisfied with these cost-efficient channels."

When agencies are compared to the private sector, ACSI found, the highest-scoring government websites top the best-scoring industry site (Amazon.com at 86). Two of the Social Security Administration’s websites, Retirement Estimator (91) and iClaim (90), have the best overall scores and outperformed all other private-sector firms measured by the ACSI. A third SSA site (Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs) also scored a 90 in Q2 2012.

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