ADOTAS – The much-publicized troubled launch of the Obama administration’s Healthcare.gov website is a reminder of how poorly the U.S. government fares in delivering digital assets and value to its citizens. The project seemed to be a dud on arrival, with system instability illustrative of a wider project management breakdown with no one party responsible for integration around a guiding user experience. Instead bureaucratic processes bred a website where consumers were forced to sign up before shopping, contrary to the free and exploratory nature of their digital lives. This set-up, along with faulty back-end support, created confusion and serious bottlenecks that left many disgruntled consumers wishing this project had not been managed by the Administration. President Obama’s numbers took a hit.
When asked through a Profero online survey what their perception is of the U.S. government’s digital capabilities three quarters of the 150 U.S. online respondents said that they are either somewhat (44.7%) or extremely outdated (31.3%). When asked how the U.S. government fares compared to other countries: almost half felt that our offerings are either vastly (16.7%) or somewhat inferior (32.7%) to other countries. Only 11.3% and 6.7% of those respondents feel they are either somewhat or extremely superior, respectively. Whether most consumers truly know what other governments offer online, there is a clear lack of confidence in our government’s digital offerings.
Very telling also was respondents’ answers when asked who they felt could do a better job at fixing the website. Four times as many respondents collectively think either Google (47.3%) or Amazon (20%) could do a better job than the U.S. government (16%) in fixing the HealthCare website. The Obama administration itself seems to acknowledge this private sector advantage by awkwardly referring to the improvements made to the website by saying “While there is more work to be done, the team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness.”
And by referring to private sector velocity and effectiveness, the administration is referencing new economy brands like Google and Amazon and their culture of bold innovation, accountability, and a disciplined focus on iterative improvements. It’s also a nod to these brands’ singular focus on the user experience: from Amazon’s 24-hour delivery option and its most recent Mayday live video customer care on its Kindle Fire, to Google’s ability to seamlessly and ubiquitously make our digital lives easier.
It’s this unrelenting focus on a stellar user experience and its related emphasis on delivery that ultimately earns trust with consumers. That is why it was no surprise that when asked which of the following companies they trust to deliver on what they say, it was Amazon (30.7%) and Google (21.3%) that earned the highest percentages in the “completely trust,” category, with the U.S. government coming in at dismal 2.7%. Disney (19.3%), Netflix (16.7%) and Starbucks (15.3%) — also regularly lauded as user-experience stalwarts — scored much higher than the U.S. government as well. The erosion of trust around the website launch must be a tough pill for President Obama to swallow as he has artfully leveraged the power of digital and social meticulously in his two presidential election bids.
In all of this there is a piece of good news for the President, and that’s rooted in American’s willingness to forgive. According to our survey out of the nearly 70% of respondents who admitted that their perception of the U.S. government was damaged due to the website failure, more than half say it will likely recover. Our countrymen love a second time around, allowing the Administration to quickly learn from the initial mistakes launching the website. A good place to begin might be for President Obama to call his friends at Amazon and Google for how they run a site.
(Editor’s Note: Former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene reportedly has been hired by the Obama Administration to take over the operation of Healthcare.gov. He assumed his new post today.)