Agency websites have adjusted well over the past year to new leadership, showing a significant increase in satisfaction between the first quarter of 2009 and 2010, according to the latest quarterly report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Satisfaction with online services reached 75.1 on the index's 100-point scale, a 2 percent year-over-year increase, which reflects President Obama's push for using new technologies to interact with the public and a longstanding commitment by federal employees to improve websites, according to the report published on Tuesday.
Satisfaction slipped half a point during the first quarter of the new administration, likely a result of too-high expectations for the first Internet president and employees' reluctance to change sites without new instructions.
"The value of e-government is not only about what citizens prefer; an increase in the use of the web channel provides a huge potential for cost-savings compared to interacting with citizens via call centers and offices," notes the report by Larry Freed, president and chief executive officer of market research firm ForeSee Results. The company produces the e-government satisfaction index in partnership with ACSI, a performance rating system used by the public and private sectors.
Tuesday's study states that citizens who are highly satisfied with a website are 80 percent more likely to use the site as a primary resource, as opposed to other, more costly channels. In addition, satisfaction has a direct impact on a person's level of trust and participation in government, past ACSI studies have shown.
This quarter's score remains on par with the all-time high that the government reached last year, down only 0.1 point from 75.2, which is within the margin of error, the report states. Federal sector sites significantly trail private industry sites, like search engines and online stores, but outperform online news sites, including CNN.com and MSNBC.com, which score 74, on average.
Out of the 106 federal sites measured, the top 10 performers are as follows:
1. The Social Security Administration's retirement calculator, 90
2. SSA's tool for obtaining social security benefits, 90
3. SSA's application for help on covering Medicare prescription drug plan costs, 87
4. The Health and Human Services Department's MedlinePlus compendium of answers to health questions, 87
5. HHS' MedlinePlus en espaÃ±ol, 86
6. HHS' website for the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 85
7. HHS' online gateway to the National Women's Health Information Center, a resource for improving the well-being of women, 84
8. HHS' homepage for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 84
9. The Agriculture Department's portal to guidance on nutrition from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, 84
10. The Defense Department's Navy homepage, 84