Published: April 28, 2011 | Comments
Good federal government websites save the government money and foster democracy, according to the latest report on the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index.
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See the full list of individual website scores along with more discussion of trends is available in the Q1 2011 ACSI E-Government Satisfaction Index.
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The research quantifies a direct cause-and-effect relationship between highly satisfied citizens and cost savings for the government, says ForeSee Results, which produces the report. Highly satisfied visitors to federal government websites save the federal government money by using the web channel as their primary means to interact with the government as opposed to costlier channels like call centers, mail, and brick-and-mortar customer service centers. Some estimates indicate that the federal government could save hundreds of millions of dollars on postage alone by right-channeling citizens to websites.
When compared to those who are dissatisfied, highly satisfied website visitors report being:
- 80% more likely to return to the website
- 79% more likely to recommend it to others; and
- 50% more likely to use it as their primary resource above other, more costly channels.
These percentages are based on likelihood score differences between highly satisfied and dissatisfied site visitors.
Those highly satisfied citizens also report being 45% more likely to participate with government and report 59% higher trust in the government entity being measured. These are some of the desired results of the Open Government Initiative.
"If citizens find using the web comfortable, easy, and convenient, it cuts costs through reduced paperwork, call-center overhead, fees, facilities, and time," says Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results. "A smart investment in e-government can and should be the solution to budget deficits, since these are the programs that end up reducing costs for the government in both the short run and the long run."
The E-Government Satisfaction Index report comes just two weeks after Congress narrowly averted a government shutdown by making cuts to many government programs, including reducing the E-Government Fund from a proposed $34 million to $8 million. While this may be a roadblock for some agencies, the report shows how federal government agencies with limited budgets can prioritize improvements in order to get the best return on investment. For most federal government websites, functionality and transparency are the elements that are most important in driving satisfaction, though specifics differ from website to website.
"As private sector sites continue to innovate and improve, user expectations will increase across the board," says Professor Claes Fornell, head of the ACSI and author of The Satisfied Customer. "Satisfaction with e-gov is near an all-time high, but with trimmed resources it will be more difficult for government agencies to maintain a successful web presence. Increased use of government web sites should be encouraged if for no other reason than because it brings down cost in just about everything government does. For this, high user satisfaction is going to be critical."
At 75 on the ACSI's 100-point scale, satisfaction with federal websites continues to outperform satisfaction with the federal government overall (65.4). Private-sector websites score better, on average, than federal websites, but the best-scoring federal websites outperform the best-scoring private-sector websites, including Amazon, Netflix, and Google.
More than 330,000 surveys were conducted during the first quarter of 2011 alone. There are 110 sites included in the Index this quarter. Today's report also contains transparency scores for 31 federal websites who have made quantifying citizen perceptions of transparency a priority.