Poll after poll shows Americans increasingly dissatisfied with government, but one area where citizens seem to show greater satisfaction with the feds is with its Web sites.
Out of a possible 100, federal government Web sites scored, on average, 73.9, in the fourth quarter, up 2.5% in a year, according to the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index, which was released Thursday.
In fact, government Web sites scored 2.6 points higher in citizen satisfaction than the government itself, the first time that ever has happened.
Even minor tweaking of a Web site can produce improved customer satisfaction. Once one of the poorest performers, the score received this quarter by GSA.gov—the main Web site of the General Services Administration—rocketed 20% from a year ago to 67. GSA credits incremental changes it made to its Web site based on an analysis of past index findings with its surge in the scoring.
Index scores are calculated through a formula based on surveys of site users that measure the impact of increasing customer satisfaction on future consumer behavior, such as likelihood to return to the Web site and recommend it to others.
"The continued upward trend in E-government citizen satisfaction is not surprising, considering that federal Web sites are continuing to evolve into critical channels for good government," ForeSee Results CEO Larry Freed said in a commentary accompanying the report he authored. "An important early step in that evolutionary process is to capture the voice of the citizen, and we're seeing that more and more."
Eighty-nine federal Web sites participate in the index, up from 54 sites a year ago. By participating, operators get recommendations on how to improve their Web sites.
Sixteen sites, or 18%, scored 80 or better, considered a superior score for any Web site, private or public sector. A year ago, 13% of sites scored 80 or above. Still, federal government Web sites trail the performance of commercial sites, with 27% of service-industry sites, for instance, receiving scores of 80 or more.
Yet, one in five of E-government sites received a score below 70, an indication that many agencies continue to struggle in providing citizen-centric information and services online. "Even though these agencies have taken the first step to solicit direct citizen feedback, they may not have the resources at hand to implement the changes that will improve citizen satisfaction," the index authors write. "Also, putting agency information on the Web can vastly expand the number of citizens that seek out the information, which poses the challenge of educating new users about how to navigate, understand, and use the sites."
Among the top scoring government Web sites are those operated by the National Institute of Health and Social Security Administration. For a complete list of the E-gov scores, go to www.theacsi.org/government.htm.
A complete list of index scores is available at the American Customer Satisfaction Index Website.