Federal Health-Related Web Sites: Fit for Consumers
The U.S. federal government's Web presence serves consumers best when it dispenses information about health-related issues, according to a new study by ForeSee Results. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) reveals that eight of the 10 highest-rated e-government sites are operated by the NIH, and that one of the remaining two is also health-related. The ACSI has been used as the standard citizen satisfaction metric for the U.S. government since 1999.
The E-Government Satisfaction Index, sponsored quarterly for the ACSI by ForeSee, rates sites on a 100-point scale based on user surveys regarding site content, navigation, functionality, and ultimately whether users would recommend the site.
The E-Government Satisfaction Index covered 70 participating Web sites this quarter, a 19 percent increase over the previous quarter. General satisfaction with e-government sites, as well as the specific category of portals and department main sites, rose 1 percent, to a score of 72.6. Other segments measured include news and information sites (up 1.4 percent to 72.5), e-commerce and transactions (unchanged at 71.3), and recruitment and careers (down 0.7 percent to 77.2). According to the study's authors, even slight improvements are significant in the Internet environment, where the public's standards are constantly rising.
The National Cancer Institute's main site was the highest-ranking Web site, with a score of 81, increasing 1 point from last quarter. New to the study, the Office of Science Education main page entered the rankings with an 80. Overall, NIH sites beat the aggregate e-government score by 8 percent. "The NIH has embraced customer satisfaction as an enterprise-wide performance benchmark, evidence of their commitment to meeting citizens' needs and exceeding their expectation," says Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results. "What's going on with government health sites is remarkable."
The scores do not universally show e-government sites as superior to the private sector, however. While the government is currently at the top of the heap for the portals and department main sites category, private sector information and news sites lead their government counterparts by 3 percent, scoring 75 versus the feds' 72.3. And it should be no surprise that private sector's aggregate score for e-commerce sites (78.6) is a full 10 percent ahead of the public sector (71.3), where ForeSee says e-government is still in its infancy.
Government site visitors are increasingly likely to make return visits and recommend them to others--both key indicators of loyalty. Likelihood to return is up 0.2 percent to a score of 82, while likelihood to recommend is up 0.4 percent to 78. The top 10 percent of sites in the ACSI E-Government Satisfaction Index scored even higher in these determinants of future success: likelihood to return scored 84 (2 percent higher than the average), while likelihood to recommend achieved an 82 (5 percent higher than the average score).
Navigation and search functionality remain areas where e-government sites must continue to improve, according to the study. Freed characterizes the small improvements, 1.1 percent in navigation and 1.3 percent in search, as a muted but encouraging sign. "These are not huge increases, but even a small improvement is a good sign," Freed says for e-government to succeed on a broad scale, government agencies must focus on these areas and make significant improvements. "Navigation and search are absolutely critical factors to the success of almost all government Web sites--the things that users tend to think the sites do least well, but that also matter most."
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