The federal government’s 11-year high in customer satisfaction—achieved last year following two years of progress—was short-lived.
Federal agencies collectively dropped 1.1 percent to 68.9 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which rates government and businesses performance on a 0 to 100 scale.
Overall, government agencies declined in all four major metrics measured—process, information, customer service and website—with several major agencies scoring among the lowest of all 380-plus companies measured by ASCI.
The Housing and Urban Development Department earned a 57, lowest among all agencies, below the departments of Veterans Affairs (63), Treasury (63) and Agriculture (68). Most IRS programs also scored in the low-to-mid 60s.
The governmentwide average was 68.9, and while lower than last year’s peak, it is still the second-highest customer satisfaction mark since 2008.
Unfortunately, the downswing in momentum came at a terrible time, according to ASCI officials.
The organization, which based its federal rankings on interviews with approximately 2,800 government customers, said the prolonged government shutdown is sure to increase Americans’ dissatisfaction with government services. HUD, for example, furloughed more than 90 percent of its employees during the shutdown, including those who engage with customers.
“While this data was collected prior to the start of the government shutdown, this overall decline couldn’t have come at a worse time,” said Forrest Morgeson, director of research and global CSI manager at the ACSI, in a statement. “In all likelihood, the shutdown will exacerbate Americans’ declining satisfaction with the federal government in 2019.”
There were bright spots. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation tied for the top score of 89 from retirees, while the Bureau of Consular Affairs, which processes passports, also earned an 89.
The Defense and Interior departments both scored 78. The Commerce Department earned a 74, one point ahead of the Justice and State departments.
ASCI’s report indicates politics plays a role in shaping public perception of government performance.
Citizen satisfaction increased among Republicans, up 2.9 percent to 71, and among Independents, up 1.5 percent to 68. However, satisfaction among Democrats dropped 5.5 percent to 69 and individuals who labeled themselves “Other Party” declined 9.2 percent to 59.