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American Customer Satisfaction Index ACSI

Quality Insider

Complaint-Handling Satisfaction With U.S. Government Less Than With Private Sector

Published: Monday, January 21, 2008 - 23:00

(ACSI: Ann Arbor, Michigan) -- According to a recently released report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, U.S. citizens are less satisfied with federal government services than they are with private-sector services. In aggregate, citizen satisfaction with the federal government is 67.8 on ACSI’s 100-point scale, 11 percent lower than the National ACSI (75.2). Private-sector services score 74.

“Citizens expect more from government,” says Claes Fornell, head of ACSI at the University of Michigan and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). “The federal government should be concerned when satisfaction is on par with airlines and cable TV.”

The U.S. government receives fewer complaints on average than the private sector, and ACSI data show that federal government agencies could do a much better job handling the complaints they do receive. Only 9.1 percent of federal-agency customers complained, compared to 14.3 percent in the private sector. Complaint rates for cable televison (44 percent), wireless telephone service (34 percent), and banks (27 percent) were much higher, but the federal government scores much lower in its ability to handle complaints.

Responding to complaints in a timely and effective manner can greatly affect overall customer satisfaction. The ACSI for citizens whose complaints are handled well is 67. That drops to 28 when complaints remain unresolved.

“In all likelihood, the reason that government agencies get fewer complaints than most corporations is that dissatisfied citizens don’t expect complaining to be worth the trouble,” says Fornell. “Yet the lesson here is clear: good complaint handling will improve an agency’s satisfaction.”

Citizen satisfaction with e-government continues to outpace the overall federal government sector. The ACSI e-Government index is 73.4 for 2007, which is 8-percent higher than the overall federal government. In 2007, 20 percent of measured web sites scored at 80 or better, and 28 percent were below 70.

Among agencies, taxpayer satisfaction with the IRS’s paper filing process made the largest gain, up 8 percent this year to an all-time high score of 55. This year’s most satisfying agencies include the Mint (86) and the National Cemetery Administration in the Department of Veterans Affairs (95). The Department of Interior, home of the National Park Service, leads federal departments as a whole at 79. Federal government departments with the lowest customer satisfaction include The Department of Treasury (60) and The Department of Homeland Security, with an ACSI score of 49, which puts it at the very bottom of the list.

For more information, visit www.theacsi.org/images/stories/images/news/1207Gov.pdf.


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American Customer Satisfaction Index ACSI

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), founded at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and produced by ACSI LLC, is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. The national index is updated each quarter and scores on a zero-to-100 scale at the national level. The ACSI produces indexes for 10 economic sectors, 47 industries, more than 225 companies, and more than 200 federal or local government services.