Customer service site assesses itself with feedback from interested users

The government Web site that encourages good customer service is now getting customer feedback of its own.

A random survey of visitors to www.customerservice.gov began July 15 and will continue for a year, said Bernard A. Lubran, project manager for the Federal Consulting Group's Excellence in Customer Service Initiative.

The Federal Consulting Group is a fee-for-service Treasury Department franchise that maintains the customer service site and provides other consulting services to agencies.

The survey uses CS Monitor software from ForeSee Results Inc. of Farmington Hills, Mich., to invite selected visitors to take a 15-question survey in a separate window. The pop-up is triggered in part by something Lubran called a loyalty factor. Only visitors who have drilled down through several pages are eligible to take the survey.

Third one's the charm

The software chooses randomly from the eligible visitors in a percentage based on volume of unique visitors. Because the customer service site gets comparatively light traffic, one of every three people who view multiple pages is selected. If traffic increases, the trigger level will drop to one out of every five or 10 visitors.

'This has been worked out to make it as unobtrusive as possible,' Lubran said. 'We're all inundated with pop-ups.'

A visitor can minimize the survey window and finish the questions later.

Fourteen of the 15 questions rate the site on a 1-to-10 scale for ease of use, convenience, clarity, accuracy and other qualities. The last question is a drop-down box to gauge how many visits the person has made in the past.

The 15 questions are based on the American Customer Service Index, which uses an extensive proprietary database of consumer behavior to predict how likely it would be for visitors to return to a site if certain changes were made.

The Federal Consulting Group decided to conduct the survey because 'we wanted to model the behavior that we recommend to others,' Lubran said. 'We strongly believe in performance measures.'

To spread the word about the survey, they used a mailing list of government employees who had attended meetings. But Lubran acknowledged that www.customerservice.gov is not a site that casual surfers are likely to stumble across.

Shot in the dark

Other federal organizations, including NASA and the FirstGov portal office, also use ForeSee Results' surveys, Lubran said. NASA chose the random method of asking visitors to the agency's site to take the survey.

The General Services Administration's FirstGov team, however, set up the survey as an opt-in choice on the portal's home page because many visitors click away and don't go deeper, Lubran said.

The Federal Consulting Group has teamed up with ForeSee Results to tailor the survey for other agencies.

In May, the group received clearance from the Office of Management and Budget, which must approve large-scale public surveys. ForeSee Results charges an annual subscription fee.
ForeSee Results president Larry Freed will deliver a presentation at the Environmental Protection Agency's National Customer Service Conference next month.

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