Citizen satisfaction with federal government websites ended a losing streak by improving for the first time in a year, according to the second quarter report of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index. The Index rose 0.7% to 72.9 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale. The study also found that increasing satisfaction drives citizens to use the web-channel as a primary resource, which can save tax dollars by channeling citizen inquiries away from more expensive channels like call centers.
According to the report, citizens who are satisfied with government websites are 84% more likely to use the web as a primary resource for information or to execute transactions. Satisfied citizens are also 82% more likely to recommend the website and 56% more likely to return to the site than dissatisfied citizens.
“E-government has stopped the bleeding for now, in terms of citizen satisfaction. But it remains to be seen if this is a blip or the beginning of a positive trend,” said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results and author of the report. “What is evidently clear, however, is that improving online satisfaction can drive traffic to the web channel. Investment in the online channel will pay itself off and result in increased efficiency and happy citizens.”
In aggregate, 45% of the websites rated in the Index increased their scores from last quarter and 23 sites had superior scores of 80 or higher. The highest-scoring federal website continues to be Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/i1020/), which scored 88. The site has been at the top of the Index in each quarterly report for an unprecedented two years.
Some government agencies are including online customer satisfaction in their vendor evaluation programs as an incentive for contractors to produce user-friendly websites. Recreation.gov, the National Park Service’s website for recreational reservations and information, had the biggest score increase of the Index since last quarter (+13% to 72). By tying vendor performance to citizen satisfaction, Recreation.gov ensures that everyone involved in the site – both internal and external – shares a commitment to meeting the needs of citizens.
Search, navigation, and functionality continue to be areas that have the most impact on satisfaction, and therefore top priorities for improvement.
In the functional categories, e-commerce and transactional sites (up +1.7% from last quarter to 77) satisfy online users more than career and recruitment sites (-0.6% to 76.7) and portals and department main sites (+2.5% to 73.7). News and information sites (71.7) remain the lowest scoring category.
Despite the increase in the overall Index, satisfaction with e-government websites still lags private sector e-commerce (81.6) and e-business (75.2) websites.
Government websites have much in common with private sector e-business and e-commerce websites in that they are online resources of information or convenient transaction channels. However, e-government usually has fewer resources at its disposal.
“Whereas private sector websites are accountable to shareholders, e-government is accountable to the citizens who use the websites and to all taxpayers,” said Claes Fornell, head of the ACSI at the University of Michigan. “Government has a responsibility to get the most bang for the taxpayer buck.”
“Research shows improving citizen satisfaction has financial benefits, but it all starts with listening to your customer to identify what improvements will have the most impact,” said Errol Hau, senior director of government markets at ForeSee Results.
ABOUT THE ACSI
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is the only uniform, national, cross-industry measure of satisfaction with the quality of goods and services available in the United States. In 1999, the Federal government selected ACSI to be a standard metric for measuring citizen satisfaction. Over 100 Federal government agencies have used ACSI to measure citizen satisfaction of more than 200 services and programs. The Index is produced by the University of Michigan, in partnership with the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and CFI Group, an international consulting firm. ForeSee Results sponsors the e-commerce, e-business, and e-government indexes.
ABOUT FORESEE RESULTS, INC.
ForeSee Results is the market leader in online customer satisfaction measurement and management and specializes in converting satisfaction data into user-driven web development strategies. Using the methodology of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), ForeSee Results has created a model that scientifically quantifies the elements that drive online customer satisfaction and predicts future behaviors, including the likelihood to return to the site or recommend the site to others. A sponsor of the ACSI e-government, e-business, and e-retail reports, ForeSee Results, a privately held company located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, can be found online at http://www.ForeSeeResults.com .
ABOUT THE FEDERAL CONSULTING GROUP
The Federal Consulting Group, a franchise of the Department of the Treasury, serves as the executive agent in the government for the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The FCG holds generic clearance from the Office of Management and Budget that enables agencies to utilize ACSI without having to obtain a separate clearance under the Paperwork Reduction Act to conduct customer satisfaction surveys. Agencies can participate in the ACSI through an arrangement between the Federal Consulting Group and ForeSee Results.