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Coast Survey Product Development Benefits from Survey of Chart Users

The Office of Coast Survey surveys mariners on a regular basis to determine whether they are satisfied with NOAA’s navigation services, products, and data. More to the point, we use the customer satisfaction survey to gather suggestions on how we can improve products or change our services. Coast Survey introduced our first survey in 1991 to develop an understanding of customer journeys with NOAA charts, and the trend analysis provides good feedback on how well users’ maritime needs are satisfied.

The 2014 survey was emailed to commercial, federal, and recreational mariners who buy and use NOAA charts and data.

High satisfaction ‒ but room for improvement, especially with recreational boaters

Satisfaction is generally high with Coast Survey’s navigation products and services, confirming mariners’ reliance on chart quality.

Survey results indicate that the Office of Coast Survey website is the key access for mariners for contact and information, and 60% of commercial mariners say they are satisfied with the website. Seeking to improve the web experience for all mariners, Coast Survey has since made some changes to make charts easier to find on the web… and more improvements are coming.

Commercial mariners rate their experience with NOAA higher than do recreational boaters, with over half saying they are satisfied on a number of factors: timeliness of response, knowledge and helpfulness of the staff, ease of reaching the correct NOAA office, and overall satisfaction compared with products and services obtained from foreign chart publishers.

Mariners like NOAA “print-on-demand” charts, ask for more enhancements

The majority of mariners like NOAA-certified “print-on-demand” charts, and suggested a host of chart enhancements that would be useful. Many of the requests were for more information from additional sources, i.e., the U.S. Coast Pilot, U.S. Coast Guard, and tides and currents. Mariners also asked for colors similar to traditional NOAA paper nautical charts, and paper choices for easy writing and erasures, which have been offered by NOAA-certified chart providers since the survey was taken.

More app use, but lags on chart updates

As use of mobile devices grows, Coast Survey uses the customer satisfaction survey to analyze the trends in the use of maritime apps. The survey results show that 2% of commercial mariners and 11% of recreational boaters view charts on their cell phones “frequently”; 25% of both commercial mariners and recreational boaters “sometime” view charts on their cell phones. Tablets are more popular for charts, with 17% of commercial mariners and 19% of recreational boaters using tablets “frequently” for viewing nautical charts; 36% of commercial mariners and 28% of recreational boaters view them on tablets “sometimes.”

Survey findings about chart updates are a cause for concern. Although innovations in digital chart formats allow Coast Survey to constantly update our 1000+ nautical charts, only a third of the surveyed mariners update their nautical charts on their mobile device ‒ and even then, they update them infrequently: 34% of both commercial mariners and recreational boaters update their charts less than twice a year. Coast Survey is developing a new service to introduce in mid-winter that will let app developers update charts faster and easier.

Most commercial vessels not ready to meet ECDIS requirements

Most commercial ships, tankers, and passenger ships have deadlines for installing electronic chart display information systems, ECDIS, in their vessels, with phased compliance dates culminating in 2018. The survey asked commercial mariners if they are prepared to meet the requirements, and about a quarter (24%) of commercial mariners said they are prepared, mainly those self-identified as mariners on general cargo and research vessels.  This means many more mariners need to comply. Two percent say they are not ready because of hardware issues, and one percent attributes readiness problems to software issues. Although ECDIS regulations have been mandated since 2009, five percent of commercial mariners say they are not aware of the regulations.

Data analysis shows that all those who say they are prepared for ECDIS carriage requirements also continue to carry paper nautical charts. Half of those who are prepared view charts on their cell phone and their tablet.

Survey background

Coast Survey’s 2014 Customer Satisfaction Survey is defined in Executive Order 12862 and authorized thru OMB Control # 0648-0342. The survey was conducted by Strategy, Research & Action, Inc.

One hundred and forty commercial mariners and 1,553 recreational boaters responded to the survey email. All of the survey results were cross-analyzed on computer tabulations with multi-variate analysis to analyze the different chart user types and other chosen classification information, such as affiliations. Means and standard deviations and standard errors were calculated to check on the representation.

Paperwork Reduction Act Information:

In accordance with Executive Order 12862, the National Performance Review, and good management practices, NOAA offices seek to determine whether their customers are satisfied with the services/products they are receiving and whether they have suggestions as to how the services/products may be improved or made more useful. The information will be used to improve NOAA’s products and services. Responses to this survey are completely voluntary. No confidentiality can be provided for responses, but you need not supply your name and address. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 10 minutes per response. Send comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to Matt Kroll, Station 6350 SSMC, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act, unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB Control Number. This is OMB # 0648-0342.

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