Connecting the dots between the customer experience and trust in government
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Connecting the dots between the customer experience and trust in government

July 31, 2023

Recent polling by the Partnership for Public Service shows that positive experiences with federal services may help drive trust in government but that negative experiences appear to affect trust more strongly.   

These findings, highlighted in our 2021 and 2022 polls on public trust in government, raise questions about the overall relationship between the federal customer experience and public faith in federal institutions—a key issue examined in the President’s Management Agenda.   

Public services and public trust 

Successive administrations have aimed to improve the public’s interaction with government—from efforts to simplify the language used in government communications to initiatives to understand and reduce the administrative burden that customers face when interacting with federal services.  

These efforts are often framed as a way to increase public trust in government by providing services that are accessible, transparent and simple to use.  

But how exactly are CX and trust linked? Is it a straightforward correlation—the better people’s experiences, the more they trust government? Or is the relationship between these two concepts more complex?  

Views on experiences with government 

The latter appears to be true.  

Our research features nationally representative polls that suggest people have positive experiences with—and perceptions of—federal agencies and services.  

Our 2021 poll shows that many federal agencies are viewed more favorably than unfavorably and that more people report positive personal experiences with the government than negative ones.  

Our 2022 poll also notes that 70% of Americans who interact with specific federal services—such as filing taxes or applying for a passport—are satisfied with their experiences

Americans who have interacted with the federal government have generally been satisfied

% of people who
have done activity
Of those who have, % who were…
Filed federal taxes 93%74%18%
Voted in federal election 797715
Applied for Medicare or Medicaid 587419
Applied for a passport 52886
Signed up for an account on a government website 467415
Applied for federal student aid 337324
Source: Partnership for Public Service survey of 800 U.S. adults from Nov. 29 to Dec. 6, 2022.

Customer experience and trust  

Yet these positive experiences do not always translate to more trust.   

Our 2021 poll, for instance, shows that only 64% of those who report positive experiences with government trust it while 34% do not. On the other hand, 85% of those who report negative overall experiences with government distrust it while only 14% express trust.  

These numbers show that while positive customer experiences can help drive trust in government, they are not the be-all and end-all. Many people who have positive experiences with government still distrust it and negative customer experiences seem to drive skepticism of federal institutions more forcefully.  

So while efforts to improve the federal customer experience may prevent a further decrease of trust in government, we cannot definitively say that CX initiatives alone will drive significant and lasting increases in public trust in government. 

Clearly, with just 35% of recent respondents saying they trust government—and 42% saying government has a positive impact on the U.S.—a lack of faith in our federal institutions is deeply embedded in the public psyche and will require several corrective strategies.    

As we continue our research on trust, the Partnership will explore these strategies—and the relationship between CX and trust—to connect the dots between individual experiences with federal services and public confidence in government.    

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