For the second year in a row, American satisfaction with services provided by the federal government has increased, spurred by improved online experiences. The newly-released American Customer Satisfaction Index for government shows that overall citizen satisfaction rose 2.2% in 2012 to 68.4 (on a scale from 0 to 100) and is up 4.6% from 2010.
“Looking at the key factors that drive citizen satisfaction, the federal government has improved its marks for ease and efficiency of processes, customer service and information delivery,” says Claes Fornell, ACSI founder and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference. “The most improved area for government, however, is website quality. Better government websites, coupled with more people making use of them, has contributed to higher levels of citizen satisfaction.”
E-government communication channels continue to earn higher satisfaction scores than more traditional modes of communication. The index shows that citizens who interact with government using websites (67) or email (66) are more satisfied than those who interact with agencies via phone (65) or printed materials received via mail (62).
Over the past two years, many federal agencies have put a strong focus on improving their online information and the online experience. The government’s new information-centric approach has significantly changed, and continues to change, what used to be a government-speak, online data dump into a more organized, transparent information center. Agencies are now writing for the customer instead of for each other, and making their news and information accessible 365/24/7 through online portals with self-service knowledgebases, social media and other mass communication tools.
A good example of this is the Small Business Administration’s new BusinessUSA website which over the past year has provided a new online platform to deliver information and streamline small business interactions with the Federal Government.
(Read more about how government is using commercial customer service best practices to improve its service.)
The new ACSI data shows that the best federal agency services are now beginning to compete with – and sometimes exceed – customer satisfaction scores earned in the private sector. But the federal government still has work to do to catch up with the overall customer satisfaction levels of the private sector. The lowest-scoring section in that segment, Information, stands at 71.9, with the highest scoring section being hotels and food at 79.0, a difference of just over 10 points in comparison with the government’s overall satisfaction score.
Earning the Public’s Trust
In order to increase citizen satisfaction, earning the public’s trust will become a key focus, just as it is for private sector customer service leaders. The American Customer Satisfaction Index measures two levels of trust: trust in individual agencies that customers have personally interacted with, and trust in the federal government overall. Trust in the federal government as a whole remains low at a score of 43. But trust is much stronger for specific agencies whose services citizens have experienced directly. This score sits at 71, up from 69 in 2011.
About the ACSI
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. The ACSI uses data from interviews with roughly 70,000 customers annually as inputs to an econometric model for measuring satisfaction with more than 230 companies in 47 industries and 10 economic sectors, as well as over 100 services, programs, and websites of federal government agencies. The Index was founded at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and is produced by ACSI LLC.