Citizen satisfaction with services of the federal government continues to slide, albeit at a slower pace, according to a report released today by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Satisfaction with the federal government drops 0.8 percent to an ACSI score of 63.9, falling for a third year in a row.
Improvements in some areas, however, suggest a rebound may be in the offing. Citizens report better (76) and more timely (69) service. Also, people find information (71) to be clearer and more accessible compared to a year ago. Quality for federal websites is unchanged at 72.
“Deteriorating customer satisfaction was widespread in 2015, and the slump in citizen satisfaction is similar to what we observe in the private sector or among voters in the political arena,” says Claes Fornell, ACSI Chairman and founder. “But if the small gains in the drivers of citizen satisfaction take hold or continue to rise, we might finally see a bit of a turnaround.”
Though overall customer satisfaction in the U.S. economy also has been slumping, user satisfaction with federal and local government services remains significantly below the private sector. The national ACSI score, a combination of all public and private sector ACSI measures, is 10 points higher. But the gap between public and private sector has narrowed slightly, as customer satisfaction in the latter has suffered a larger deterioration over a longer period of time.
There is a wide range of scores for federal departments. The Department of the Interior, which includes the National Park Service (NPS), leads the pack with an ACSI score of 75. The NPS will celebrate its centennial this year and is the primary citizen-facing service offered by the Interior Department. The Department of State is next with a score of 71. Most citizens interface with the State Department for passport processing. The Defense Department at 70 ranks third among measured departments.
The lowest-scoring federal department, as usual, is the Treasury Department (55). Its low score is largely due to its responsibility for collecting taxes through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Even though the IRS performs a service that is difficult for most people to feel a fondness for, it is not impossible to improve the satisfaction of tax filers. E-filers have a satisfaction level that is 20 points higher than paper filers (76 and 56, respectively). The Department of Veterans Affairs at 60 and the Justice Department at 59 round out the bottom three.
“The disparity between the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs is notable because it speaks to the vastly different experience of our military personnel,” says ACSI Director of Research Forrest Morgeson. “Services are great when you’re enlisted, but the federal government has many challenges in delivering health services to its massive and growing population of veterans.”
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