The Social Security Administration (SSA) scored the top three sites in customer satisfaction, with the SSA Retirement Estimator leading at 89 percent.

Federal Web sites continue a trend of improving satisfaction, reaching a new all-time high in the fourth quarter according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index. The report, released today from the University of Michigan and e-government sponsor ForeSee Results, finds that citizen satisfaction climbs 0.3 percent from last quarter to 74.1 on the ACSI's 100-point scale. The E-Gov Index improves 1.6 percent from the fourth quarter 2007, and is 4.5 percent higher than the first Index measure five years ago.

The improvement of e-government over the last year is due largely to an increase in the performance of federal e-commerce and transactional sites, which improved an impressive 4 percent over the last year. Of the four major categories of federal government Web sites (which also include portals/department main sites, news/information, and career/recruitment) e-commerce/transaction sites have been the best performing for the last two quarters.

"The high levels of satisfaction with e-commerce and transactional federal Web sites indicate citizens' eagerness, willingness and enthusiasm to take advantage of online government services," said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results and author of the report. "President Obama, who as a candidate harnessed the power of the Internet better than any before him, recognizes e-gov's ability to engage, inform, and serve, and he should give it the resources needed to fulfill that potential."

In the survey, the Social Security Administration (SSA) scored the top three sites in customer satisfaction, with the SSA Retirement estimator leading at 89 percent satisfaction.

Although e-government continues to lag private sector Web sites, citizen satisfaction with e-government far surpasses satisfaction with the federal government overall. Offline federal government scored 68.9 in the latest annual ACSI report on satisfaction with the federal government, which was released in December 2008.

"Doing business with the government online delivers convenience that is unparalleled in the offline world," said Claes Fornell, head of the ACSI at the University of Michigan. "While e-government may never catch up with its private-sector counterparts, improving e-government satisfaction may be the most cost-effective way of improving government satisfaction as a whole."

The improvements are noteworthy because higher satisfaction increases use of federal Web sites and leads to greater efficiency in serving citizens. Highly satisfied citizens are 86 percent more likely than dissatisfied citizens to use an agency's Web site as a primary resource before using a call center or visit a branch office.

"Although the Index has reached an all-time high, there is room for improvement," added Freed. "E-Government is unique in its ability to address the Obama administration's stated priorities of communication, transparency and participation, so I expect that e-gov will continue to improve if given the proper attention and resources it deserves."