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South Dakota Department of Transportation
Project Synopsis

Title: SDDOT’s 1999 Statewide Customer Survey
Project Researcher: John Schamber, MarketLine Research, Inc.
Project Manager: Dave Huft
Research Period: 7/1/1999 - 2/29/2000
Cost: $57,000.00

Problem Statement:In 1997, the South Dakota Department of Transportation commissioned a statewide customer survey. The survey, conducted in the first half of the year, identified the Departments key products and services, and assessed public opinions and attitudes concerning their importance and quality of delivery. The 1997 survey raised the Departments awareness of customers concerns, and provided valuable insight into their level of satisfaction. Some units of the Department used information from the survey to help establish formal performance measures.

Two years after this first survey, several questions arise:

  • How has the Department of Transportation responded to issues raised in the 1997 survey? Are more proactive responses possible?

  • Do public perceptions of the Departments current performance differ significantly from perceptions in 1997? If so, how?

  • How does public opinion differ if assessed in the fall, rather than the spring (which in 1997 immediately followed a record severe winter)?

  • Would a current survey confirm or refute the significantly different opinions expressed in 1997 by citizens in the Rapid City Region? If differences are confirmed, what factors underlie them?

  • What other differences of opinion between demographic groups are significant?

  • What are the publics opinions on current issues, including funding for transportation construction and maintenance, commercial vehicle operations

  • Research is needed to reassess the publics opinions of the Departments performance, explain their significance, and identify how the Department can respond to them.

    Findings: Most residents satisfied Respondents were told to assess overall performance in terms of how well the DOT maintained state roadways during the past year. Most residents interviewed (60%) indicated some level of satisfaction with the DOT. Residents are more satisfied with the DOT’s snow and ice removal than with general maintenance of state roadways. Satisfaction is strongest in the Mitchell and Aberdeen Regions. Older aged residents (55 and over) tend to rate all aspects of DOT job performance more positively than members of other age groups. They are especially more positive about the maintenance job the DOT does in removing snow and ice from roadways. Satisfaction ratings of legislators did not significantly differ from those of citizens. Dissatisfaction A sizable pocket of dissatisfaction exists as shown in Table 1. About one in six citizens are dissatisfied with overall DOT job performance. This represents some 40,000 plus households across South Dakota. The 16% dissatisfied resident group is significantly more dissatisfied in all areas of assessed satisfaction. Table 1 Distribution of Satisfaction Ratings Attitudes towards DOT products and services Degree of overall satisfaction with road maintenance is strongly associated with how positively or negatively a resident forms attitudes relating to other DOT offered products and services. Satisfaction rating had a major effect on opinions about the DOT’s products and services. People who are satisfied with the DOT rate each product /service related statement significantly higher than those who are neutral or dissatisfied. Only four of ten positively positioned product/service statements had 60% or more of the residents agreeing with the statement. Residents were least likely to believe that the DOT answers questions completely and that it spends its budget wisely. Half the legislators or more don’t believe the DOT gets construction jobs done as fast as they can or that it is always necessary to close down long stretches of highway for repair. Awareness and knowledge of SDDOT Residents think the most important service of the DOT is maintaining the highway surface. Each assessed service was considered to have value, but some more than others. No current DOT service was rated least important by more than half the residents. Safety or ease of driving were primary reasons why so much importance was placed on maintaining highway surfaces. A service was often considered least important because other services are more important. Most participants stated they based awareness and their impressions of SDDOT on daily observation and contact with workers in construction zones or in performance of maintenance activities. Impressions for the most part seemed to be influenced and associated with how well the roads were maintained (snow removal, signage, comfortable safe ride, etc.), and observed activity or inactivity of workers in construction zones, Information needs Most residents would like more information from the DOT. They would especially like information that helps them plan their trips. Virtually no one thinks the DOT provides too much information about future highway projects. One-fourth of the residents and legislators would like more information on future projects. Mass media vehicles such as radio, newspapers and television are preferred sources of DOT information. Significant interest exists for receiving DOT information over the Internet. Driving conditions The increased amount of highway work this year has not caused additional problems for the residents. Only half of the residents think the level of highway construction is up this year. However, two thirds think they encounter highway work sites on almost every trip but don’t always see visible signs of work being done. Most think the length of delays due to highway construction hasn’t increased this year. Some regional differences in perceptions exist. Residents of the Rapid City and Mitchell regions said they are more likely to encounter highway work than those in the Aberdeen and Pierre regions. Residents of the Rapid City region are more likely to perceive an increase in the level of highway work this year than other regions. Positions on issues (Resource allocation) Most residents tend to be neutral (in the middle) when rating the fairness of funding for projects across all of South Dakota. Residents in Rapid City and Pierre regions are less likely than the other two regions to think that the DOT is fair. (Roadwork priority) There was not strong agreement on which projects should have funding priority. Overall, importance was given to some type of improvement of 2-lane highways. (Amount of work on Interstate highways) Residents think the DOT should do more to repair the state’s Interstate highways. (Interferences with travel safety) Eight of nine roadway factors presented were thought to have a major impact on safe travel. Limited public transit service was not seen as having a major impact. Weather, an uncontrollable factor, is considered the most likely to interfere with safe travel. 8 in 10 residents viewed rough roads, narrow shoulders, poor pavement markings and construction as interfering with safe travel.

    Research Objectives:
    1  To assess public opinion concerning the importance and quality of the Department of Transportation’s key products and services.
    2  To recommend actions the Department of Transportation can take to improve its performance and public perception of that performance.

    Research Tasks:
    1  Meet with the project’s technical panel to review the project’s scope and work plan.
    2  Interview selected managers and staff of SDDOT to identify important issues related to customer service and to identify actions taken in response to the Department’s 1997 customer survey.
    3  Conduct focus groups with members of the public to identify significant issues that should be assessed quantitatively through a statewide survey.
    4  Summarize the findings of interviews and focus groups and present them to the technical panel and SDDOT’s 10-member Executive Team.
    5  Based on interviews, focus groups, and feedback from presentations to the technical panel and executive team, develop an instrument to be used in a statewide, quantitative survey and submit it for approval of the technical panel.
    6  Upon approval of the survey instrument, conduct a statewide, quantitative survey to determine the South Dakota public’s opinions concerning the importance and quality of SDDOT’s products and services.
    7  Analyze and summarize survey results to identify significant issues among the general population and among distinct customer groups
    8  Conduct a workshop with the Department’s Executive Team to develop a plan of action for responding to the findings of the statewide survey.
    9  Prepare a final report summarizing research methodology, findings, conclusions and recommendations
    10  Make executive presentations to SDDOT’s Research Review Board and Executive Team.

    Documents Available:
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