10 Highlights from the Government Customer Satisfaction Forum

This morning I attended the 2012 Government Customer Satisfaction Forum: Annual Results for the Federal Government, the event was sponsored by Federal Consulting Group and the National Business Center (DOI). Here was the agenda for the conference, followed by my quick notes and insights for the presentation:

  • Keynote Speaker: Ron Raborg, Deputy Commissioner for Quality Performance, Social Security Administration
  • Announcement of the 2011 Government-wide Customer Satisfaction Benchmark: Dr. Forrest Morgeson, Research Scientist, American Customer Satisfaction Index
  • Presentation of Web and Program Customer Satisfaction Awards fr 2011
  • 2011 Government Call Center Satisfaction Index
  • 2011 Fourth Quarter and Annual E-Government Customer Satisfaction Benchmarks: Larry Freed, CEO, ForeSee, Inc.

My notes where quite lengthy, so I did my best to synthesize the information for you up front and if you would like, you can download my notes here (which has a lot more of the data talked about). If there are any questions about the data in the post or areas you want more information on, just leave a comment and I will do my best to provide further information.

Here is the Top 10:

  1. Customer service generally is improving across government based on ASCI study
  2. Challenges to customer service include: limited budgets, decreased staffing, increased workloads, privacy, data analysis and management
  3. Need to measure across multiple channels and think critically about the data from each
  4. Very high rates of satisfaction for in-person communication
  5. Executive Orders are great steps for government customer service
  6. Call centers are tough to measure, a longer call that solves a persons issue may be more effective than numerous short calls that re-direct a customer to different people
  7. Issues of the digital divide and how to provide customer service to the disabled are important challenges that cannot be lost with advances in technology
  8. Stark difference between how customer service is measured in private and public sector – but there is still a lot of room for each sector to learn, share and grow best practices
  9. Customer service expectations are increasingly growing in government, due to advances in private sector
  10. Great customer service leads to increases in citizen participation, transparency and accountability.

Interesting Data Reported

From the Social Security Administration:

  • 45 million visitors to field office, customer satisfaction = 92%
  • 25 million callers = 77% satisfaction rate, once they get by voice recognition and menu structure, increased rate
  • Increased overall customer satisfaction rate from 78.2 to 81.4 FY 2010 FY 2011

From ASCI Annual Report

  • Points are scaled 1-100
  • For reference – in the mid 2000’s, the score peaked in the mid 70s
  • Satisfaction is up for federal government from last year
    • 65.4 FY 2010
    • 66.9 FY 2011
    • Year on year increased significantly up 1.5 points, gain of 2.3%
    • Results by agency sample
      • Defense 76
      • Interior 74
      • State 72
      • Agriculture 72
      • Commerce 71
      • Veterans Affairs70
      • Social Security Administration 69
      • Health and Human Services 67
      • Transporation Department 67
      • Homeland Security 59
      • Treasure Department 57
      • Agency Trust Increased 1 point in FY 2011 from FY 2010(68 to 69)
      • General Trust of Government Decreased in FY 2011 from FY 2010(41 down to 36

If you would like some more information on customer service, be sure to check out the GovLoop guide, Excelling with Customer Service.

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Gordon Lee Salmon

Thanks Pat for the great summary. Just so you know, the ASCI report you mentioned is for the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). What needs to be done to raise the overall Trust in government score from 36? Will better leadership help?

Pat Fiorenza

Thanks Gordon – the trust issue was actually very interesting. I think better leadership will absolutely help and improved methods of customer service to citizens (live chats, tech to improve response time, improved call centers, etc) will also help improve the trust. I think a few other key factors that I think will help are:

1 – Poor economy, as the economy starts to recover and more people are back to work – scores will go up

2 – Some good news…Trust scored a lot higher when you looked at agency-by-agency rather than across government. This makes sense too – just like when you look at approval ratings for your congress reps compared to congress as a whole, people trust the agencies they are working with directly more. Of course we want to see general trust improve, but this is some good news when looking at the data.

3 – Broader awareness of what services are made available by federal agencies. I think sometimes if a customer is dealing with just one agency, their perception is that the federal government operates like congress, so their perspective is skewed.

I think no matter what, customer service in government is really tough and difficult to measure. At the forum ASCI rep just barely touched the methodology of the survey, so it would be interesting to learn how they control for a lot of variables in the study. I think it was great to see that although the economy is tough, customer service levels increased since last year and overall, a lot of great energy surrounding how to improve customer service.

Stephen Buckley


It seems like you are genuinely interested in this subject. Correct me if I am wrong, but it sounds like the idea of measuring the level of citizen satisfaction is something with which you were not familiar before attending this conference.

Seeing that you got your MPA from Syracuse University, I suspect that you would be more inclined (than others) to go to the website for the Maxwell School of Public Affairs and do a search for “customer service” and “citizen service”. http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/search.aspx

Please come back and let us know if you find anything enlightening there. I’m interested in exploring ways to explain this topic, one so fundamental to government, so that it’s easier for would-be advocates to grasp (i.e., esp. those without an advanced degrees).

Pat Fiorenza

Stephen –

Thanks for your note. I took a couple classes on program/project evaluation, along with statistics in grad school, but we never focused specifically on citizen satisfaction. Most of my knowledge about how to measure programs would come from my experience in my stats/quantitative/program evaluation courses. I think it’s got to be extremely challenging to measure, based on what I know from my courses. It’s fascinating and necessary to do though – so it’s an interesting area to study. I’ve been to a few conferences now on customer service and written a few things about customer service in government here on GovLoop – so the methodology behind measuring citizen satisfaction is something I would like to explore more.

So there are a lot of great resources here on GovLoop for you to take a look at about customer service in government. Here are a few links for you to take a look at if you haven’t seen, and let me know if you need anything else:

1 – Excelling with Customer Service Guide: https://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/announcing-the-govloop-excelling-with-customer-service-guide

2- Customer Service Hub: https://www.govloop.com/page/customer-service-hub

3 – All Blogs tagged, “Customer Service”: https://www.govloop.com/profiles/blog/list?tag=Customer+Service

I agree it is a fundamental topic for government. I think what is also really interesting is the idea of referring to citizens as “customers,” and probably warrants a conversation itself on the topic.