Gets High Customer Satisfaction Rating for Online Filing
American taxpayers are not overly fond of the Internal Revenue
Service. Few people love to pay their taxes, so it's no surprise
that citizens don't love the tax collecting agency.
so the bad news is: IRS scored low in the first-ever government-wide
customer satisfaction survey.
the good news is: Among electronic filers the agency earned
a higher score than most businesses.
Agencies Join American Customer Service Index
A new, wide-ranging rating of satisfaction with federal government
services allows federal agencies to be compared to the private
sector and each other for the first time ever. The ratings
span 29 so-called "high impact" agencies, and are being issued
as a special report of the American Customer Satisfaction
Index (ACSI), which has been measuring satisfaction with goods
and services in the private sector since 1994.
The aggregate score for the federal government is 68.6 on
a 100-point scale. This is 6 percent lower than the private-sector
aggregate score of 73, but 9 percent higher than commercial
airlines and 11 percent higher than satisfaction with network
news. The individual agency ratings range from 51 to 87. The
spread is comparable to the range of 53 to 86 seen in the
private sector. Folding the government sector into the overall
economy-wide ACSI edges the U.S. score up slightly to 72.1
Workers Do Well
ACSI results show that, in many cases, federal workers do
a very good job in servicing citizens and, in some cases,
perform as well or better than their private sector counterparts,"
said Claes Fornell, director of the University of Michigan
Business School's National Quality Research Center. "The key
now is to understand what other conditions produce superior
customer service, and then establish those conditions throughout
the government. These measurements and the insights they yield
about what matters most to the public are powerful tools for
ACSI is produced quarterly through a partnership among the
University of Michigan Business School, the American Society
for Quality, and Arthur Andersen. This special government-sector
report was produced in partnership with Arthur Andersen Office
of Government Services. The ACSI model was developed by Fornell.
federal services are producing customer satisfaction levels
that equal or exceed many companies. The Administration for
Families and Children scored an 87 for its Head Start program.
Other high performers include the U.S. Mint (86), the Women,
Infants and Children program (83), and the Social Security
Administration (82). These are comparable to scores for top-performing
private companies such as BMW (86) and Whirlpool (84) and
well above private sector laggards such as Northwest Airlines
(53), GTE (63), and Nike (73).
Regulatory Agencies Don't Do as Well Regulatory agencies tend
to end up on the other end of the Index. OSHA (51), the Food
Safety and Inspection Service (62), and the Veterans Benefits
Administration have the lowest scores.
IRS is among the lowest-scoring agencies at 51. While this
is perhaps not surprising given the fact that the agency both
imposes an unwanted burden and does not control key factors
such as the tax code, the ACSI yields actionable insights
for satisfaction improvement. One clue is found in the break-out
IRS customer segment of electronic filers, where the agency
earned a 74.
is no inherent reason for the government to perform worse
than the private sector," said Fornell. "Government participation
in the ACSI is an important step both demonstrating this and
further changing expectations and actions."
for each agency are based on selected key customer segments,
and are reported as an assessment of how well those particular
segments are being served. Most agencies' scores are now included
in the national ACSI score. In all, 8,060 customers of 29
agencies and departments were interviewed. Measurement of
these agencies will be repeated in 2000.
now, only a few government services had been included in the
ACSI. With this expansion of the public sector measurement,
the Index now covers 200 companies and public sector organizations.
Prior to today's report, the public-sector agencies measured
were the IRS, US Postal Service, and local garbage and police
Applying the ACSI approach to federal agencies was initiated
by the President's Management Council based on the recommendation
of the methodology by the General Services Administration.
was a bold move for the government to put itself into an Index
directly alongside the private sector," said Fornell. "I take
it as a sign of seriousness about the business of measuring,
understanding, and improving customer satisfaction-which is
a fundamentally important component of effectiveness in any
view of the public mistrust of government reported in other
studies, the relatively high customer satisfaction achieved
by several federal agencies may be surprising to some," said
Fornell. "Mistrust does not necessarily translate into dissatisfaction
with services. On the other hand, there is a strong linkage
from customer satisfaction to improved trust. Low levels of
trust probably lead to lower customer expectations. This is
one thing the ACSI data suggest."
The ACSI methodology combines five key categories of questions
through an econometric model that produces a more accurate
picture of customer satisfaction than is possible through
a simple survey. Fornell's model is designed to isolate factors
that have the highest impact on satisfaction. This "impact"
component of the model both produces a more accurate understanding
of satisfaction than traditional surveys, and yields valuable
insights into what customers care about the most. In evaluating
the government agencies, the model was altered only to adjust
the private-sector input category related to price and product
results and ACSI private-sector scores from 1994 to the present
are available on the University
of Michigan Business School web site .
additional information, contact Judy Calkins at the University
of Michigan Business School Office of Communications at 734-936-2150.
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