One example of a site that is listening to the voice of its customers is the Internal revenue Service’s redesigned public website, www.irs.gov, which relaunched in November 2005 based on analysis of online customer satisfaction data. Since last quarter, the IRS’ score has increased an impressive five points (7.4%) to a score of 73.
The IRS faces challenges on several fronts with its website. First, the site must make it easy for citizens to sort through huge quantities of forms, instructions and other information to find what they need. Second, for many people, dealing with taxes is not a favored activity so citizens tend to rate satisfaction lower.
Guided by information gathered through customer satisfaction analysis and confirmed in usability testing, irs.gov set about to make a number of critical changes to its site. The changes focused primarily in search and navigation and included adding a “most requested forms” section and relocating the top navigation bar to position customer roles and make the site more intuitive to use. The IRS also added an “I need to…” pull-down menu to enable users to quickly navigate to information on the task they are trying to accomplish and linked search results for forms and instructions so that a user gets both when typing in a particular name or number, among other changes. A new portal interface enabled the IRS to launch a new portlet to provide “Most Requested Forms and Publications” based on actual usage. The new design also has front page space for promoting electronic tools, services and products to customers to make fulfilling their tax obligation easier.
The five-point increase in citizen satisfaction is especially significant considering that the final months leading up to the mid-April tax filing deadline brings a large influx of visitors, many of whom are coming to the site for the first time. The fact that the IRS has been able to increase satisfaction scores to such a great extent before the final stage of tax season is testament to the effectiveness of making site enhancements driven by citizens’ feedback.
Also impressive is how favorably satisfaction with the IRS’ website compares to satisfaction with the IRS overall. The ACSI score for “all individual taxpayers” is 64, which is 14% lower than this quarter’s website score for the IRS. Clearly, the IRS’ web channel is doing a significantly better job of serving citizens from the customer perspective. This performance gap will help migrate citizens to the online channel where they can gather information and conduct business more conveniently, consistently and more cost-effectively.
Even more impressive, irs.gov outperforms the cellular phone industry aggregate (69), the cable and satellite TV industry aggregate (61), and the airline industry aggregate (66) ACSI-measured customer satisfaction scores.