Satisfaction with agency Web sites falls

Two Social Security Administration Web sites earned the highest approval rating, while the General Services Administration received the lowest, in a recent survey that reviewed 95 government Web sites.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index released its third-quarter report on federal government Web sites showing a slight decrease in customer satisfaction. The average score for the federal sites was 73.7 out of a possible 100, a decrease of 0.4 percent from the second quarter results.

'If e-government sites just maintain the status quo, they will see satisfaction erode over time as citizens become increasingly Internet-savvy and their standards rise,' said Claes Fornell, director of the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and founder of ACSI.

SSA's Internet Social Security Benefits Application and its Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs each scored 87 in the new survey.

ASCI produces the report to provide comparative information, allowing each Web site to assess where they rank among similar sites so improvements that will impact citizen satisfaction can be made.

'Many citizens struggle with understanding where to go in government to find the information they are seeking, which is a huge challenge for federal departments disseminating information to the public through the Web,' said Larry Freed, president and chief executive officer of ForeSee Results of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Overall, 25 percent of the sites increased citizen satisfaction and 19 percent rose to the 'top performer' category, which is achieved by scoring an 80 or higher, but even this was not enough to show an increase in the overall satisfaction of citizens.

On the other hand, GSA, which scored a low of 56 on its E-Library site, was not alone in earning poor marks. Military Health Systems, the National Resources and Conservation Services, and the National Archives and Records Administration also received low user satisfaction ratings.

E-government sites trailed the most recent aggregate studies on citizen satisfaction. E-commerce, made up of online retail, travel, auction and brokerage sites, recorded a 79.6, a 5.9 percent increase over e-government. E-business, made up of news and information sites, search engines and portals, scored a 76.6, a 2.8 percent increase over e-government.

To make it easier for e-government sites to assess how they are functioning in comparison to sites similar to themselves, ACSI categorized sites under three headings: department, agency or program. Programs made up the largest grouping of Web sites, 58, and scored the highest on citizen satisfaction. Also, their visitors were most likely to recommend their site to others. Department Web site visitors were most likely to return and also to use department sites as their primary resource for information.

Researchers also categorized the 95 sites four ways, based on the primary function of the site: portals/department main sites, information/news sites, e-commerce/transactions and career/recruitment sites. Satisfaction within these categories also saw a decline, with portals/department sites showing the greatest decrease. However, their score of 74.8, was above the average overall score.


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