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Improving government customer experience: Insights from rankings and research analysis

CX is having a moment in government. But many leaders don’t know where to start or what “good” looks like. New research from Qualtrics across all 50 states answers these and other questions.

From your local dog catcher to the U.S. Social Security Administration, governments of all shapes and sizes serve residents, citizens, and other customers with a wide range of services that have a significant impact on our lives and livelihoods. Government customers, in turn, expect a healthy return on their taxpayer dollars, typically in the form of high quality, timely, and relevant services.

But where are taxpayer investments in government services paying dividends? Which federal agencies and state governments are beating or even meeting those expectations? And what do customers actually want from government in 2024?

To gauge where taxpayer investments are paying dividends, Qualtrics partnered with Code for America to answer these questions, benchmarking the state of customer experience across a range of state services, including motor vehicles, state taxes, Medicaid, and SNAP.

Interested in seeing your state’s rankings? Click here to download the full report.

Benchmarking government CX across 50 states and DC

To start, we mapped out where states fall in terms of percent of satisfied customers.

Map of 50 states showing where states fall in terms of percent of satisfied customers.

A deep dive into the data revealed a few key patterns:

  • Americans have frequent and meaningful interactions with government, with 99%+ of Americans interacting with at least one of thirteen government services in the past 12 months
  • 59% are somewhat or extremely satisfied with their most recent state government experience, with a 23p.p. spread between the state with the highest level of satisfaction and the state with the lowest
  • This stands in contrast to the federal government services where on average 65% are somewhat or extremely satisfied
  • Government delivers on some key drivers of customer experience, while it fails to do so on others (e.g., fairness, level of effort)
  • Satisfaction with government services leads to higher levels of trust in government, especially when customers are “extremely satisfied”

Comparing CX across services and demographics

While some state governments are providing experiences that meet or beat many private sector innovators, others fall behind by a considerable margin. Even in high performing states, there are typically a couple service areas or driver areas where room for improvement is warranted.

Satisfaction also depends on the service, with some similarly on par or close to private sector benchmarks. Others, however, are far behind.

CSAT scores showing satisfaction across public sector.

CX also varies by demographic group. Consistent with other research, lower income residents and customers generally have lower levels of satisfaction, trust, and other measures of CX compared to higher earners. A newer trend in this research, age too is positive correlated with favorable experiences, with younger customers generally more dissatisfied with the state of public services.

CSAT breakdown by demographics

Closing the CX expectations gap in government

So what can government practitioners do to improve CX? Our research tested over 100 hypotheses to see what influences a positive customer experience, providing practical insights for public sector leaders.

The answer is clear. Positive government customer experiences cause high levels of customer satisfaction. It turns out that the influence of politics, regional disparities, journey “moments,” or channels (e.g., phone, digital, in person) is minimal compared to experiential factors.

In other words, people care about how they feel more than any other factor we tested.

Looking at variables in isolation, we find that 56% of satisfaction can be attributed to customer experiences such as empathy, meeting needs, responsiveness, relevance, fairness, level of effort, etc. How customers evaluate these drivers of experience has a powerful influence on satisfaction with–and therefore trust in–government and the services it provides.

Two drivers in particular matter to government customers: Meeting customer needs and the level of effort required to do business with the government.

  • Customers are 2.3x more likely to express satisfaction if they agree their needs have been met; 1.7x if they said government was easy to work with.
  • Other factors such as relevance, fairness, and consistency of information showed statistical significance–however their impact was lower than these core drivers.

These are just a few of the insights found in our report. Inside you will find a comprehensive set of rankings, powerful insights, and five “plays” that CX leaders can activate based on these findings.

See your state's rankings and dive deeper into what makes for great CX in government service