Customer satisfaction with federal Web sites nudges up a notch

Government agency Web sites earned a slight boost in public approval over the last four months, thanks in large part to highly rated National Institutes of Health sites, according to a national index of customer satisfaction.

The quarterly gauge of customer satisfaction found that the 70 government Web sites measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index attained a 72.6 out of 100 on the index, up from 71.9 last quarter. The index is published by the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan Business School.

Nine of the top ten sites are run by agencies that work with health issues, and eight are run by the National Institutes of Health. The average score of the 19 sites run by the Health and Human Services Department was 7 percent higher than the average of all the sites on the index.

Sue Feldman, senior program analyst for the National Cancer Institute, said that because the institute's visitors are so diverse - including patients, scientists and advocates -- the index breaks down the customer data from the surveys into the smaller user groups, which helps the agency serve all its customers.

Larry Freed, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based online strategy firm ForeSee Results, said the success of the NIH sites is remarkable and attributed the success to user evaluations and the sharing of ideas between NIH site managers. "The NIH has embraced customer satisfaction as an enterprise-wide performance benchmark," Freed said.

The non-health-related Web site in the top ten is the General Services Administration's Pueblo, Colo., site, which received a 79. It is the home of the Federal Citizen Information Center, which provides a library of consumer-interest publications.

The government average of 72.6 is a point lower than the 73.6 average for all ACSI measured industries, both online and offline. Fourteen new sites joined the index this past quarter.

Improvements in the content, navigation and search categories pushed the overall score up, according to Freed, but the ability to search and navigate government Web sites remains the lowest-scoring elements in the index.

The General Services Administration's Web site hit the greatest improvement in customer satisfaction, up from a 57 to a 65, due largely to the changes made at the site in response to feedback. It remains second to last in customer satisfaction in the index's portals category.

Since GSA found that per diem information was one of the main reasons people visited the site, the agency made the link to the per diem page more accessible, according to Freed.

Other low performers in the portals category include House and Urban Development Department's main site with a 61, the Federal Aviation Administration's main site with a 67 and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's main site with a 69.

In the news and information category, the main sites for the Defense Department's Military Health System and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau received 58s, and four Agriculture Department sites were in the bottom seven in this category.

The lowest rated sites in the e-commerce category included the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's main site with a 65, the GSA Global Supply site with a 68 and the GSA Advantage site with a 69.

The CIA recruitment site ranked the highest of the three government career sites that the index measured with 79, followed by the Office of Personnel Management recruitment site with 77 and the State Department's recruitment site with 76.

Department Agency/Office Web site Satisfaction
this Quarter
Last Quarter
SSA SSA Retirement Planner SSA Retirement Planner 79 78
Treasury U.S. Mint U.S. Mint's Online Catalog 76 81
Treasury Treasury Department TreasuryDirect 72 NA
DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA Flood Map Store 71 70
GSA General Services Administration GSA Advantage 69 68
GSA GSA Global Supply Global Supply 68 68
PBCG Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation PBGC 65 63
HHS National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus 85 87
HHS National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus en espanol 84 83
HHS National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases NIDDK 84 NA
HHS Office on Women's Health National Womens Health Information Center 82 82
HHS National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders NIH Stem Cell Information 81 NA
HHS National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders NIDCD 81 NA
GSA General Services Administration Federal Citizen Information Center 79 79
HHS National Library of Medicine AIDSinfo 79 80
State Bureau of Cultural Affairs State Alumni 79 NA
HHS National Library of Medicine TOXNET 76 76
Justice National Criminal Justice Reference Service NCJRS 76 77
Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention OJJDP 75 75
Justice National Institute of Justice NIJ 74 75
HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 74 73
NARA National Archives and Records Administration NARA Presidential Library 74 74
SSA Social Security Administration SSA FAQ 73 NA
State State Department State Department Education USA 73 71
HHS National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases NIAID 73 76
SSA Social Security Administration SSA Disability 72 NA
Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook 71 73
Agriculture Economic Research Service, Agriculture ERS 71 72
Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, Commerce BEA 71 71
Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service, Agriculture FAS 70 69
HHS Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results, National Cancer Institute SEER 70 NA
State State Department Student Information 69 69
State International Information Programs IIP 69 67
Energy Energy Information Administration Energy Information Adiministration 67 69
State Bureau of Cultural Affairs Bureau of Cultural Affairs 67 71
Agriculture National Agricultural Library NAL 66 66
Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service FSIS 66 66
Agriculture Forest Service Forest Service 66 73
DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA Mitigation Division 65 67
Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service CSREES 62 62
Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau USTTB 58 0
Defense Military Health System TRICARE 57 56
Portals/Department main sites
HHS National Cancer Institute National Cancer Institute 81 80
HHS Office of Science Education Office of Science Education 80 NA
HHS National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases NIAMS 78 NA
Interior National Parks Service National Parks Service 78 79
Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology NIST 78 77
HHS National Library of Medicine NLM 76 77
HHS National Human Genome Research Institute NHGRI 75 NA
GSA General Services Administration (Spanish) 75 74
Defense Defense Department Defense Department 75 76
HHS National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research NIDCR 74 0
HHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC 73 74
SSA Social Security Administration SSA 73 72
FDIC Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation FDIC 73 73
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA 72 74
GSA General Services Administration 72 71
GAO Government Accountability Office GAO 71 71
State State Department State Department 71 73
HHS National Institute of General Medical Sciences NIGMS 71 NA
Treasury Department of the Treasury Treasury Department 70 69
NARA National Archives and Records Administration NARA 69 68
Treasury Internal Revenue Service IRS 69 70
Commerce United States Patent and Trademark Office USPTO 68 66
FAA Federal Aviation Administration FAA 67 68
GSA General Services Administration GSA 65 57
HUD Housing and Urban Development Department HUD 61 62
CIA Central Intelligence Agency CIA Recruitment 79 79
OPM Office of Personnel Management Government Recruitment 77 76
State State Department State Department Recruitment 76 78
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