Citizens are a little less happy with e-government these days.

Ann Arbor-based ForeSee Results today released its American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Government Satisfaction Index. It fell to 74.7 on the study’s 100-point scale, nearly half a point from the first quarter’s score of 75.1, but still above 73.6 a year ago.

The decline this quarter can be attributed to decreased satisfaction with e-government portals and department homepages, which are down 1 percent to 74 overall. Satisfaction with nearly half of the 32 federal Web sites included in this category declined from the previous quarter and the aggregate satisfaction with this category has been declining for the last three quarters in a row; the makings of a trend.

“Portals and department homepages are the gateway to an agency’s online services. The challenge is that there are so many different reasons people visit any agency or department website, and it can be hard to direct people to the information they are looking for,” said Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee Results, the ACSI’s partner for the e-gov index. “That is why search and navigation are consistently the top priorities for so many individual portals and department main websites.”

Many agencies are making changes to their sites in response to the president’s Open Government Initiative, which sometimes requires users to adapt their navigation and search to find the information they need. With a citizen-centric development strategy in place, those changes can actually increase satisfaction in the long-term, but there can be a slight dip in satisfaction as visitors get used to the new changes.

E-commerce and transaction sites (82) remain the best-performing category followed by career and recruitment (78) and information and news (74) sites. Unlike portals and department sites, these other three categories have been on an upward trend for the last three quarters.

In order to increase satisfaction, agencies can make improvements to Web site elements identified using ACSI methodology as top priorities. Although individual sites vary, top priorities for e-gov sites overall are improving site functionality, transparency, and navigation. Improvements in these areas can yield significant time and cost savings as highly satisfied are more likely than dissatisfied citizens to return to the site, recommend it, and use it as the primary channel for interaction with the agency or department.

“Although there is a slight decrease in satisfaction this quarter, it remains to be seen whether this is will develop into a trend or just a blip on the radar,” said ACSI founder and University of Michigan professor Claes Fornell. “Satisfaction remains reasonably strong, though it still lags the private sector. Despite the slip, it is a good sign that citizen satisfaction is still higher than a year ago.”

Despite the decline, satisfaction with e-gov still beats satisfaction with government overall (which is at 68.7) and rivals satisfaction with many private sector sites. Citizens are more satisfied when they interact with the federal government online than offline. Some government sites have satisfaction scores that outshine sites in the private sector, but the e-gov average trails the private sector’s average.

This report measures citizen satisfaction with 110 e-gov sites. The ACSI has been measuring satisfaction with e-gov for 28 consecutive quarters, and satisfaction hit its all-time high at the end of last year.

Based on their score differences, when compared to dissatisfied citizens, highly satisfied citizens — those with satisfaction scores of 80 or above — have 80 percent greater likelihood to use the Web site as a primary resource (as opposed to other, more costly channels); 85 percent greater likelihood to recommend the Web site; 55 percent greater likelihood to return to the website, which helps the federal government operate more cost-efficiently; 62 percent greater likelihood to trust that government agency; and 57 percent greater likelihood to participate in government by expressing their thoughts to the agency or department than those who are less satisfied.

What does that mean for the federal government? Cost savings, improved efficiency, and increased participation.

Top performers in the survey include the Social Security Administration retirement estimator,, 89; the SSA iClaim site,, 88′ SSA’s Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs site,, 87; the HHS National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus,, 87; HHS National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive & Kidney Diseases,, 86: HHS MedlinePlus en Español,, 85; SSA Business Services Online,, 85.

Top private sector scores include at 87 and and at 86.

Top improvers, those with increases over 5 percentage points, included the U.S. International Trade Commission main site, up nine points to 71; the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs site, up eight points to 75; the Pentagon Channel, up seven points to 84; the U.S. Mint Online Catalog, up seven points to 82; the Social Security Internet Disability Report, up six points to 80; the Department of Defense Marine Corps site, up six points to 74; the USDA’s National Agricultural Library, up six points to 74; the National Archives and Records Administration main site, up six points to 74; the Department of Health and Human Services grants site, up five points to 58; the Forest Service’s main site, up five points to 61; the Department of State careers site, up five points to 78; and the  Department of State (Chinese), up five points to 71.

Bottom performing sites inlcude the National Archives & Records
Administration Access to Archival Databases,, 59; the U.S.Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service,, 58; the Health and Human Services Grants Policy Committee,, 58; the U.S. Department of the Interior,, 55.

The ACSI is the only uniform, national, cross-industry measure of satisfaction with the quality of goods and services available in the United States. In 1999, the federal government selected ACSI to be a standard metric for measuring citizen satisfaction. More than 100 federal government agencies have used ACSI to measure citizen satisfaction of more than 200 services and programs. The Index is produced by the University of Michigan, in partnership with the American Society for Quality and CFI Group, an international consulting firm. ForeSee Results sponsors the e-government index.

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