Federal Sites That Get Satisfaction

The University of Michigan and ForeSee Results released its latest quarterly American Customer Satisfaction Index for federal Web sites today, and the overall score for federal Web sites has remained fairly level. The third-quarter 2007 score for the 91 government Web sites measured dropped 0.5 percent to 73.3, a score that hasn’t changed that much for the past two years.

What’s interesting, however, is that the sites that dominate the top 10 are sites operated by the Social Security Administration, such as the Internet Social Security Benefits Application site and the Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs site, and several operated by the National Institutes of Health, including the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus and the site operated by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

In fact, out of the 19 federal Web sites that score 80 or higher in the satisfaction index, 13 (or two-thirds) relate to health or retirement (namely Social Security).

The University of Michigan and ForeSee Results, which calculates the index, reports in the press release announcing the scores that the sites that do well have four characteristics in common: “total commitment to meeting the public’s diverse needs; recognition by management of the web’s strategic value; using ‘voice of the citizen’ data as an improvement tool; and focus on the mission of citizen service.”

But could something else be at work here? The National Institutes of Health and the Social Security Administration manage programs that are extremely popular with the public, as any member of Congress can tell you. Could some of that popularity spill over to their Web sites? Also, health and money (retirement) are top of mind issues with the public. Could that interest influence the scores, too?

But then how do you explain the CIA’s recruitment site receiving such a high mark â€" an 81? Well, one could argue that defending the nation against terrorism and other threats is a health and a top-of-mind issue.