U.S. Govt Web Better than the Real Thing

The University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) has found that citizen satisfaction with government Web sites has inched higher than satisfaction with the overall federal government.

Last year, satisfaction levels with the overall federal government and so-called “e-government” offerings were identical. However, during the fourth quarter of 2005, the study found e-government’s customer satisfaction score has increased 2.5 percent over the same period in 2004, to a high of 73.9 out of 100 points. The overall federal government, conversely, topped out at 71.3 points. The e-government score was the third consecutive quarterly gain for the federal government’s online offerings.

ASCI scores are computed on a 100 point scale based on surveys of site users. Satisfaction levels are measured by items which indirectly measure future user behavior, such as the likelihood users will return to the site or recommend it to others.

“Federal e-Government is continuing to make improvements to better satisfy users,” said Professor Claes Fornell, director of the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan and founder of the ACSI. “Government websites still lag their private sector counterparts by a significant margin, but they are reducing the satisfaction gap with the private sector.”

The study showed particular improvement for the U.S. General Services Administration, which made several incremental improvements based on user research and citizen feedback. The site’s current score of 67 is a 20 percent improvement over 2004, and three points higher than its score in the third quarter of 2005. The study also found 16 (18 percent) of the 89 federal Web sites included in the study scored satisfaction ratings of 80 or higher, putting them amongst the top-ranked Web sites of any sector, public or private. (In contrast, 27 percent of private sector Web sites evaluated scored an 80 or better.) The National Institute of Health and three Social Security Administration Web sites scored particularly well.

“The continued upward trend in e-Government citizen satisfaction is not surprising, considering that federal websites are continuing to evolve into critical channels for good government,” said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results and author of the report. “An important early step in that evolutionary process is to capture the voice of the citizen, and we’re seeing that more and more, as evidenced by increased participation in the Index.”

The ASCI is the only national, industry-spanning study of consumer satisfaction conducted in the United States; the federal government selected the ASCI to serve as the standard metric for measuring consumer satisfaction with federal services in 1999. The ASCI is produced by the University of Michigan in partnership with the American Society for Quality and CFI Group; ForeSee Results sponsors e-commerce, e-business and e-government indices. The Federal Consulting Group, a franchise within the Treasury Department, is the executive agent for the ACSI and the federal government.

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