Customer Satisfaction Isn't Easy for E-Gov

Anyone who has attempted to renew a passport or apply for a travel visa knows that the process can be frustrating. Although the U.S. government has made strides in recent years to make these process easier and more efficient through the use of e-service, a recent study finds citizen satisfaction with government Web sites to be slipping. The first quarter 2007 report on E-Government Satisfaction from the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index finds satisfaction to have dropped 0.7 percent from the last quarter of 2006, the first drop in two years. The report, released in conjunction with ForeSee Results, argues that the tide in satisfaction may be shifting as Web experiences on private sector sites improve. "We saw a pretty steady rise in satisfaction in 2004 and 2005," says Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee. However, Freed explains, "If you don't make a change to these Web sites, over time the score will lower. It's not that anything physical changed on the Web sites; it's that the standard is changing." Although 46 percent of e-government sites improved in customer satisfaction in last year's index, only 31 percent improved this year, while 49 percent of sites saw a drop in their scores. This trend stands in sharp contrast to the satisfaction indicators measured in the last quarter of 2006 when the aggregate score neared its all-time peak with 44 percent of sites improving and 24 percent declining. The report notes that satisfaction may be falling for sites in the public sector due to larger strides of improvement on commercial sites. The customer satisfaction score for e-government was 73.4, as opposed to 76.5 for e-commerce and 80.0 for e-business. For sites in the private sector, competition and the importance of raising the bottom line drive Web site improvement and funding. E-government, however, does not necessarily face these pressures. The absence of these drivers can lead to lack of funding for customer service initiatives. Freed also cites the increase of Web 2.0 functionality on private sector sites as well as the ability for sites in the private sector to constantly refresh their content, branding, and messaging as advantages over the public sector Web experiences. Hope for improvement of customer satisfaction in e-government may be on the horizon, according to the report. In late 2006, the Office of Management and Budget announced that the President's Management Scorecard would now include customer satisfaction measurement. "I would say it's critical that these government Web sites embrace satisfaction measurement. What you measure affects what you do," Freed says. "Adding citizen satisfaction to the Scorecard will potentially improve that a great deal." Related articles: Government Web Sites Are Lagging
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