GSA's Citizen Services get high marks in survey, but 'ease of use' lags

A new survey alerted the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies to weak points in their offerings – and helped them focus on keeping things easy for users.

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Does digital government need an easy button?

For the past three years, the General Services Administration's Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) has been using its Government Customer Experience Index (GCXi) – measuring satisfaction and the likelihood that users return and recommend programs –  to keep a finger on its customers' collective pulse.

OCSIT's overall GCXi score slipped from 86 in 2013 and 2014 to 78 last year, according to advance data GSA provided to FCW.  Nearly half of the drop can be chalked up to the new metric: "ease of use."

For its 2015 poll of thousands of feds across 135 agencies, OCSIT added a new question on ease of use, and the feedback on that point dragged down its overall score. Without the new ease of use metric, OCSIT calculated its 2015 index score would have been 81.

But OCSIT's Customer Experience Strategist Rachel Flagg embraced the revelation that not everyone found OCSIT offerings easy to use.

"We learned that we have some work to do in this area, particularly with more technical programs such as FedRAMP, Electronic Capital Planning and Investment Control (eCPIC), and Digital Analytics Program (DAP)," Flagg noted in a Dec. 28 blog post.

The GCXi results also highlighted a divergence between excellence and failure in the growing number of OCSIT programs.

Seven programs, 38 percent of OCSIT's stable, garnered "very good" scores of above 85, which OCSIT noted is well above the private sector benchmark of 1 percent in Forrester's Customer Experience Index. (The GCXi is modeled in large part on Forrester's index.)

OCSIT's publications program scored a perfect 100.

On the other hand, 17 percent of OCSIT programs scored below 55, or "very low." Only 1 percent of Forrester-measured brands score so low.

Another issue highlighted by user comments: There are an awful lot of offerings from OSCIT.

"I have not heard of anything referenced here except for FedRAMP, and I've been in the Government for 18 years!" one customer wrote. "What are all these things?"

"It would be nice if there was more information outreach and something that really simplified (walked-users through) what each of these components are and how to use them," another customer suggested.

And that, Flagg said, is exactly what OCSIT did.

OCSIT has pledged to improve their focus on outreach, accessibility and making their programs easier to use. The agency beefed up online training and webinars and directed feds into digital communities where they could learn from one another.

"If you've participated in past GCXi surveys, we thank you for sharing your candid feedback," Flagg wrote. "As you can see, we take it to heart and will continue to use your feedback to make our programs even better."