Customer Satisfaction with Government Agencies Drops Slightly

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for U.S. Federal Government shows that overall customer satisfaction with federal agencies has dropped 1.1 percent in 2005. The Federal Times reports this annual study shows that customer satisfaction decreased in 43 percent of federal agencies, while showing customer satisfaction improvements in 35 percent of agencies. Twenty-two percent of agencies did not see change. The aggregate ACSI increased last year by 1.7 percent.

Regulatory agencies saw the largest drops in customer satisfaction. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) saw the largest overall decline, according to the Federal Times. Those who filed individual paper returns were 3.8 percent less satisfied than in 2004. Electronic filers were 27 ACSI points more satisfied than paper filers, at 50 ACSI points, according to the index itself. The proportion of electronic filers to paper filers has nearly tripled since 1998, according to the index commentary. Large and mid-size business filers were 5.9 percent less satisfied than in 2004, while the satisfaction of small business corporate filers was unchanged at 60 ACSI points. The decline in the satisfaction of large and mid-size business filers may be due to a new tax form in 2004, according to the study commentary.

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Applicants for a Disaster Recovery Assistance Low-Interest Loan program rated 66 points, while the main web site for SBA had 74 ACSI satisfaction points in 2005, according to the index. Inversely, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) pension practitioners rated 68 ACSI points and the main PBGC web site rated only 65 points, according to the satisfaction index itself. Curiously absent from the ASCI Satisfaction Index listing are ACSI satisfaction ratings for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB).

Established in 1994, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is a uniform and independent measure of household consumption experience according to the ACSI web site. The ACSI is produced by the Stephen M. Ross Business School at the University of Michigan, in partnership with the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and the international consulting firm, CFI Group. ForeSee Results sponsors the e-commerce and e-business measurements. The ACSI is funded in part by corporate subscribers who receive industry benchmarking data and company-specific information about financial returns for improving customer satisfaction.

In related news, the IRS has announced last month that it would absorb a $100 million cut in its customer service budget by cutting three hours off the availability of their toll-free taxpayer help lines. Starting January 23, 2006, assistance will be available on the toll-free telephone lines between 8 A.M. and 8 P.M. The Albany Democrat-Herald reports that IRS statistics indicate that 93 percent of calls already come into the call centers between these hours.

IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said that the agency would work to ensure that taxpayers don’t wait on hold any longer than they did last year. The IRS’ initial plan was to close several taxpayer assistance centers. Everson told the Albany Democrat-Herald, “My obligation is to provide the best possible taxpayer services at a reasonable cost.”

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