Satisfaction with federal government websites at all-time high

Monday - 5/3/2010, 7:45pm EDT

Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee Results

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By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor
Federal News Radio

More people are pleased with federal government websites than ever before.

Those are the findings from the first quarter 2010 release of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index.

Larry Freed is President and CEO of ForeSee Results, the company that developed the methodology behind the survey.

"To put it in perspective, last quarter was the highest score we had ever seen, which was a score of 75.2. So, [there was] a slight little dip, but it is still significantly up over last year, which is very important."

The overall upward trend has continued during the past four quarters, and Freed said a lot might have to do with the Obama administration's emphasis on federal agencies' websites.

"There are still some challenges for government agencies and there are still some policies that kind of get in the way, but at the end of the day there's a lot more support than before, and a lot more focus on using the Internet as a very efficient and economic way to communicate information and services to citizens."

Overall, those who have positive online experiences with government sites tend to view governments as a whole in a more positive light.

"The web is a place where citizens can come when they need it, when it's convenient for them. They're not stuck with call center hours or branch hours or challenges like that. So, it really becomes a very, very important part of the equation, and we see a strong relationship with trust, [which] I think bodes well for the future of e-government."

The Social Security Administration continues to hold the top spot when it comes to customer satisfaction, and this time around even beat out private sector sites like Google and Amazon.

"It's not that they're necessarily better looking or have better navigation or a better look and feel or better functionality. It's that they're doing a better job of meeting citizens' needs and meeting their expectations."

Not every agency got positive results. Freed explained that this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just means that, perhaps, some agencies need to think differently about their online presence.

"The first step toward improvement is measurement. So, for those agencies that are maybe not in the 80s and 90s in scores definitely have room to grow, but they're taking that all-important first step, which is that they are measuring it. The second challenge that these agencies face is that the expectations of citizens continue to rise -- they expect a better experience on the web -- so once the agencies start that upward climb, often they will do some work and then wait a year or two to do some more work. With that formula, they'll actually see their scores go down."

Better websites are those that serve their customers really well, Freed said. Understanding the objectives of your site, and what your audience is looking for, is key.

"A lot of times you get people coming to these websites that are there for purposes beyond what you're commissioned to do. So, being very upfront on your site and letting them know what is available, and being able to direct them to the right places is definitely a best practice."

In addition, listening to customers is key. A feedback mechanism, if provided, should never be ignored.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Freed said, an organized website is a successful website.

"A navigation problem creates a search problem. The organization of that data, whether it be by the type of person coming, [or] the type of information they're looking for. There's no perfect answer there that works for everybody, but better organization of data is really the key to moving these scores up, and to giving a better experience to the citizens."