Citizen Satisfaction of Government Websites Rises; Revolves Around Services

A new American Customer Satisfaction Index has been released and shows that citizen satisfaction with government services, particularly with web services, increased 2.2% over last year. On average, the satisfaction is at 68.4% but this is not consistent across all agencies.

It’s interesting to see that the highest satisfaction ratings at the department level were held by the U.S. Mint (95%), the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s retiree program (89%), and the Education Department’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online service (88%). The lowest ratings were held by the Federal Aviation Administration (42%), Treasury Department’s Bureau of Public Debt (46%), and the Internal Revenue Service (57%). I wanted to take a look at the various websites and data to see what some underlying factors may be.

When you look at the top 3 performer’s websites, you’ll notice a stark difference to the lowest performers. The high scorer’s sites are easy on the eyes, well laid out, and most importantly have the information you need readily available. In contrast, when you’re looking at the bottom 2 performer’s you see websites that seem outdated and don’t provide info for services, instead they’re providing info about the organization first (I excluded the IRS website, I’ll get to that in a second). When citizens visit sites like the FAA and the Bureau of Public Debt they already know about the organization, they are there for a specific reason.

My first reaction to the low satisfaction level of the IRS is simply because of what the IRS does. If you can find me anyone who really likes interacting with the IRS, I’d love to hear from them. The IRS website does a pretty good job with how it presents its services and is much easier to absorb than the FAA and Bureau of Public Debt’s websites.

Lastly, within the report it indicates that the method by which citizens interact with these agencies also impacts the satisfaction levels. Those who visited an agency saw higher satisfaction than those who used the USPS or via telephone. Visiting an agency in person is becoming an exception due to expenses and distance, but e-government channels outperformed traditional means.

While there are exceptions, most of the public sector scores still underperform compared to private sector companies. Is this due to a divergence in what each sector thinks in terms of customer service and user experience?

How do you think that agencies and departments can better utilize their web presence to give citizens what they’re looking for? Are methods like phone and mail services becoming obsolete due to the efficiencies of websites and email?

*Graph courtesy of ASCI

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Susan Grow


I’d like to clarify for your readers that the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) scores are not percentages; they are scores based on the mean (or average) of how all of those responding to the surveys viewed the respective agencies/programs/processes/websites.

While it is true that in many customer satisfaction measurement surveys the results are reported as a percentage of the “top box” or “top two boxes”, the ACSI provides its scores as a presentation of the mean or average of all the respondent ratings. The ACSI survey questions use a 1 – 10 scale with 1 being Poor and 10 being Excellent. For reporting purposes, the actual mean (average) of all the respondents is converted to a 0 to 100 scale. So, if an agency/program/process/website has a score of 70, for example, it indicates that the majority of its customers are rating them in the 6, 7, or 8 range on the 1 – 10 scale. What it means for a contact center like the US Mint with a score of 95 – a truly high score in government or the private sector! – is that the majority of their customers are rating their services as a 9 or 10 o the 1 to 10 ACSI surveys scale. Kudos for such high marks!

Don’t feel bad, though, Bryce – citing the ACSI “scores” as a “percentage” is a fairly common because much of what is reported in our culture, and more specifically in customer satisfaction measurement surveys, is done in percentages.

Susan Grow