Report: Citizen satisfaction with federal services slightly up in 2011

Thursday - 1/19/2012, 8:47am EST

Forrest Morgesson, director of research, ASCI

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Citizens were slightly more satisfied with federal government services than they were in 2010.

Satisfaction went up 2.3 percent in 2011, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index released today by Foresee. The bump comes after a decrease of 4.8 percent between 2009 and 2010.

Government services overall scored below private sector services, but some agencies are comparable to the best-scoring private companies. For example, the Small Business Administration and its Loan Recipients programs, the National Weather Service, and the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs "generate ACSI scores on par with the very best private sector firms, such as Amazon.com, FedEx, and UPS," according to the ASCI report.

Other high-scoring agencies are the Defense, Interior and State departments.

ASCI also measures satisfaction in process efficiency, the quality of information from the agency, customer service and federal websites.

"We really try to map out and put into a relationship all of the different parts of experience with federal government," said Forrest Morgesson, director of research at ASCI and the report's lead author, in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

The most "highly thought-of" aspect of government services is customer service, Morgesson said.

Customer service includes "courtesy, professionalism, efficiency" of the customer service representative, he said.

Low-scoring agencies include the Homeland Security and Treasury departments. Morgesson said this makes sense because the Transportation Security Administration is part of DHS and the Internal Revenue Service is part of Treasury.

"For pretty obvious reasons, TSA and IRS are both fairly dissatisfying experiences," Morgesson said. "One because they are quite literally taking money from you and possibly putting a stronger regulatory burden on you. The other because, well, TSA does what TSA does."

The report said government on a whole can do a better job of handling complaints. The government received a score of 44 out of 100 for complaint-handling — just a little better than the score of 43 for the airline industry.

Citizens have low trust in government overall (a score of 36) but more trust after they have been in contact with a specific agency trust more in individual representatives than Congress as a whole.

ACSI reports scores on 225 companies and more than 200 federal and local government services. For the federal government survey, ASCI surveyed 1,500 Americans.

See scores by agency