DHS was one of several agencies that scored below average in a survey of website users and information-seekers. (DHS.gov)
Frustration with balky websites helped drive down public satisfaction with federal agencies’ services last year, leaving the government trailing even the airline industry and subscription TV in user esteem, newly released survey findings indicate.
On a satisfaction scale of 0-100, the federal government scored about 66, down more than 3 percent from 2012, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a Michigan-based firm that based its findings on interviews with 1,448 randomly selected respondents, reached by phone and email between last October and December. By contrast, fast food restaurants received a score of 80, airlines warranted 69 and subscription TV 68. Of a dozen sectors, only Internet service providers came in below the government, with a score of 65.
Some agencies — such as the Defense Department, State Department and Social Security Administration — surpassed the government-wide benchmark. The Department of Homeland Security and Treasury Department fell below. In general, federal employees were seen as courteous and professional, but many respondents thought that information could be made easier to understand and find.
For the federal government as a whole, the falloff in satisfaction came after two years of gains. In a report, ACSI attributed last year’s results largely to growing dissatisfaction with federal websites, saying that users “find the sites more difficult to navigate, less reliable and the information provided less useful.” While the woes afflicting HealthCare.gov — the web portal for people seeking medical insurance on the federal exchange — got extensive publicity, the drop in website satisfaction was “quite broad,” according to the survey.
The public’s reaction also underscores the growing importance of online government services. As of last year, more than one-third of respondents said that they most often touched base with agencies via the Internet, compared to 19 percent who used the phone and 11 percent who paid an in-person visit.
The decline came despite an Obama administration push to put more agency information online. As part of a waste-cutting campaign, however, the White House said in 2011 that it intended to shut down unneeded or duplicative sites.