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E-Government Satisfaction Remains Strong, According to ACSI and ForeSee

 ANN ARBOR -- Despite a slight dip in the third quarter, citizen satisfaction with federal government Web sites remains near record highs, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Government Satisfaction Index, released Tuesday in partnership with the Ann Arbor-based customer experience analytics firm ForeSee.

After setting an all-time high in the second quarter, the ACSI e-government index slipped 0.4 percent to 75.3 on a 100-point scale.

Federal government Web sites have long lagged their private sector counterparts in customer satisfaction, but a recent slide for the e-business sector broke the trend, and satisfaction with e-government (75.3) now exceeds satisfaction with private-sector e-business (74.2 in the ACSI annual report on the sector released in July). However, satisfaction with e-government is still far behind private sector e-commerce, which scored 80.1 in the private e-commerce annual report published in February.

"When evaluating their online experience, customer expectations are no different for public or private sector Web sites," said Dave Lewan, vice president of public sector business at ForeSee and co-author of the commentary that accompanied the report. "As far as they are concerned, it's all the internet and they expect all experiences to match their best experiences. The challenge for e-government is to try to match the best of the best, using fewer resources. The third quarter e-gov report shows that it is possible. However, this Index represents 106 federal Web sites and Web services, and there are many more federal initiatives that need to be measuring, tracking, and improving the digital citizen experience."

In today's release, federal news and information Web sites, at 75, scored 3 percent better in aggregate than the private-sector news and information category rated by the ACSI in July. However, e-government portals and department main sites lagged the comparable private sector measure of portals and search engines by 6 percent, 74 vs. 79.

Within the government, e-commerce and transactional e-government Web sites typically score higher than news and information Web sites and portals and department main sites. The top three Web sites are from this category and included three from the Social Security Administration: iClaim (92) and Retirement Estimator (91), and Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (89). Three news and information websites score 87, while one portal and department main site scores 88. A full set of scores can be found at

"Any Web site that can meet the needs of its visitor will drive satisfaction and have a direct impact on behavior, and the pay-off is well worth the investment," said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee, "Research shows that highly satisfied citizens are more likely to recommend or return to the Web site, or use it as a primary resource before other more costly channels like call centers than less satisfied Web site visitors. These are bottom line results, but high satisfaction also builds trust, and that is priceless."

"Though it is encouraging to see some public sector websites outperforming the private sector, federal government agencies would be foolish to cut e-government budgets under the mistaken impression that less is more," said Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI. "When it comes to citizen satisfaction, a satisfied customer is almost always a more profitable one. Or in the case of government, a less expensive one."

Nearly 300,000 surveys were collected in the third quarter for the Index. 106 federal government websites are included in the third quarter report.

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