Customer satisfaction (or more aptly, citizen satisfaction) with the federal government recently fell 4.4% to 65.1 out of 100, according to the American Customer Service Index's (ASCI) Federal Government 2020 report — reaching its lowest point since 2015.
No matter your political leaning, 2020 was a year in which the government probably let everyone down at some point. But here's something that might surprise you: While there are many reasons that government trust has fallen in the past year, the ASCI report wasn't focused on policy. Instead, it looked primarily at federal government *services,*polling respondents on things such as efficiency and ease of government processes, clarity of information, and website function. So, in essence, what's captured by the ASCI was less about political opinions and more about political access. In other words, people expected to find information and answers from the government during an undeniably turbulent year.
So, how did the government do? Frankly, not so hot. But there's some good news: Unlike many complex, polarizing issues plaguing policymakers, this is something that has a relatively simple fix.
How the public sector can deliver better answers
Here's something interesting about the government: The customer service agents themselves are rated quite highly, particularly around professionalism and the courtesy of the agents. When people actually need to call and talk to someone, they are mostly satisfied with how they're treated.
But the other three pillars of customer satisfaction — processes, information, and website — saw decreases. There was a 3 percent decline for efficiency and ease of government processes, a 3 percent decline for ease of accessing and clarity of information, and 5 percent decline for perceptions of government website quality.
So, the satisfaction with customer service agents appears to be masking some broader problems. It's likely that more people are calling customer service in the first place because they can't access information about programs and services on a government website. And while the agents seem to do well, it's that failure — the failure to efficiently and accurately deliver information online — that is driving the decline in customer satisfaction (and likely driving up customer support costs as well).
The solution? Investing in modern search that understands natural language and can deliver accurate answers swiftly. Not only does this immediately provide a better customer, or citizen, experience online, but it allows the government to ensure the information people get is official and up-to-date. The alternatives are searching on Google (where misinformation can creep in) or driving more costly customer support calls — and in the midst of a global pandemic, neither are great options.
There is a better way — and we have the data to prove it
At Yext, we've actually already seen the impact modern search can have on a government office. Last year, one of the government customers Yext worked with leveraged Yext's natural language site search solution, Answers, to rapidly create a search-centric web portal for COVID-19 testing, FAQs, and Job Postings. So, what happened? Users who searched spent at least 3.7x more time on the site and viewed 1.6x more content. We've also seen increased visit duration and pageviews for those who search, indicating that people who chose to search had a better experience than those who did not. At the same time, Yext search helped reduce call center volume across different types of business verticals — indicating that more customers find the answers they need online and never need to call customer service at all.
Government struggles with trust, and transparency can't be fixed overnight. But we've seen that governments — and the public sector at large — can take a step in the right direction when it comes to meeting people's needs for assistance and information online. By delivering better answers across their websites, government agencies can collectively make 2021 satisfaction scores the highest in history.
Interested in hearing more on information and the public sector? Watch our recent webinar featuring State of New Jersey Office of Innovation on how and why they built a trusted source of information for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.