US Government agencies have spent billions of dollars in an effort to improve the services they provide. Yet, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report, citizen satisfaction with Government services has been in decline for the last two years (Figure 1).
Satisfaction with eGovernment services, while higher, has remained essentially flat. In fact, it has declined about one percent in the last six months (Figure 2).
Why is that? There are several reasons. For starters, debacles like Healthcare.gov, the gargantuan breach of personnel records at OPM and the scandal surrounding the wait times of veterans seeking medical treatment at Veterans Administration clinics have had a marked adverse impact on citizens’ views about the quality of government services.
Furthermore, citizens’ expectations, particularly in the eGovernment realm, are continually rising – largely driven by their positive experiences with private sector on-line services and eCommerce.
Consumers (and citizens) expect immediate response and personalized service across multiple channels at any time from anywhere – consistently.
For businesses, failure to deliver what the customer wants translates into lost business. Hence, meeting customer expectations is critical and receives constant attention and investment. For Government agencies, customer service is not as critical a component of their mission as it is for businesses. An agency will not go out of business if it is providing inferior customer service. Among the 40 specific industries covered by the ACSI survey, the US Government ranked next to last – just above Internet service providers (Figure 3).
The ability to keep up with – and meet – citizen demands continues to be a challenge for Government agencies. The reason for this is that most of the investments that agencies have made to improve customer service have focused on technology improvements rather than improving the process itself, i.e., the customer experience. This is critical; not only to improve service but to expand citizen engagement and build trust.
Research has shown that satisfaction directly impacts behavior. The more positive the experience, the greater the likelihood the citizen will engage further. The data in Figure 4 shows how positive customer experiences with websites, for example, drive engagement and, more importantly, trust in government.
The Federal Government has launched several cross-government initiatives to improve customer experience. For example, the General Services Administration has established a Customer Experience (CX) index that agencies can use to assess their service quality and measure their progress. The President’s 2015 Management Agenda has as a goal the delivery of “a world-class customer service experience for citizens and businesses.”
Many agencies have made great progress. Out of the 100 Federal Government websites surveyed, the Foresee eGovernment Satisfaction Index for 2Q 2015 , found that 27% received a score of “Excellent” (80 or higher). The Department of Health and Human Services led the list with ten of its websites rated Excellent followed by the Social Security Administration with six sites.
So, given the now critical role of citizen experience, perhaps it’s time to change the “e” in eGovernment from “electronic” to “experience.”