Citizen loyalty to US e-government is growing

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on September 29, 2004

Increased consumer (citizen) satisfaction has led to increased levels of loyalty to government web sites, according to an analysis of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) e-Government Index by ForeSee Results.

E-Government initiatives have continued to improve, according to the latest report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). This quarter the ACSI measured 54 e-government websites to produce the current aggregate e-government satisfaction score of 71.2 (on a scale of 0 to 100) - a 1.2% increase over last quarter and a 5.4% increase from one year ago.

The E-Government Satisfaction Index is published quarterly as a special report of the ACSI, which is produced by the University of Michigan in partnership with the American Society for Quality and CFI Group. The ACSI partners with the online satisfaction firm ForeSee Results for e-government data collection and analysis. The categories measured by the report (portals and department main websites, information and news sites, e-commerce and transaction sites, and career and recruitment sites) all showed increases in the latest report.

According to ForeSee Results CEO, Larry Freed, e-government portals are showing a steady evolution while, with a score of 70.5, e-government portals are nearly level with private sector portals following an index score boost of 7% over the previous year. "Government portals are something to watch," said Freed. "Portals have one of the most challenging jobs to do, serving a wide variety of user segments with distinctly different needs. Agencies need to understand who is using the site, what their needs are, and how to balance the competing needs of different audiences."

Index results
The main website of the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) achieved one of the largest increases with a score of 71 (four points higher than the previous quarter). GAO undertook a major redesign over the past few months and the upward trend in satisfaction appears to be driven by changes that enable the office to deliver online information more effectively to its web site visitors.

In the information/news category, the aggregate satisfaction score rose by almost 2% to 71.2. The best-performing websites continue to be health-information sites operated by the National Institutes of Health, especially MedlinePlus. Its score of 86 is a small step behind Amazon (88), the top performing ACSI e-commerce website.

Satisfaction with the e-commerce/transactions category improved as well, although it still lags well behind private sector e-commerce. Even so, the US Mint turned in a strong score of 80, up one point from last quarter.

Citizen satisfaction with recruitment and career websites edged upward as well, with a 1.6% increase. Top performers in this category - most notably CIA Careers and USAJobs - remained unchanged from last quarter with scores of 79 and 76 respectively.

In addition, there was a positive trend noted regarding users' intentions to return to and recommend government websites - a critical indicator of any online channel's success. Channel loyalty measures reflected in "likelihood to return" and "likelihood to recommend" scores both increased one point this quarter to 82 and 77 respectively.

But with all this positive news comes a word of caution from Freed. Satisfaction scores for 41% of the 54 e-government websites measured this quarter and last quarter showed a negative change, while only 33% experienced improvement and 17% remained steady. Such mixed results for the individual e-government websites may signal a levelling-off of website improvement, according to an analysis by ForeSee Results. According to Freed, this downturn for many government websites may be because users of these websites have grown accustomed to the level of convenience, ease, and efficiency delivered by private sector e-commerce and e-business sites and are applying the same yardstick to e-government.

"E-government users are also users of online news, portals, retail and search sites," said Freed. "These private sector sites don't stand still; competition among them fuels continual improvement and evolution. E-government sites must either adopt a similar pace of improvement or risk declining satisfaction ratings and defection to less convenient and cost-efficient channels."

Little investment
"E-government sites face a demanding set of challenges in meeting citizen expectations," commented Anne Kelly, CEO for the Federal Consulting Group in the US Department of the Treasury, and the US government agent for the American Customer Satisfaction Index. "The private sector has far greater resources to devote to innovation and customer satisfaction. More e-government sites have had to make do with existing resources, leading to a decline of customer satisfaction in some cases. Even so, there are instances where e-government sites have managed to press ahead in spite of the considerable challenges they face."

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