The legislation would make significant changes to how federal agencies engage the public.
Legislation that would change the way federal agencies solicit public feedback regarding service delivery and customer experience has advanced through the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.
Introduced in March by Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H, and James Lankford, R-Okla., the Federal Agency Customer Experience, or FACE Act, now awaits a floor vote in the Senate. The legislation lays out significant changes to the Paperwork Reduction Act that often prolong—sometimes by months or longer—the process through which agencies collect voluntary feedback. Federal agencies’ bureaucratic delays are magnified in today’s era of real-time data collection, such as sentiment analysis, that are commonplace among leading private-sector companies.
A spokesperson for Hassan called the committee’s passage of the bill “an important step” and noted that Hassan will continue to push the legislation forward. The legislation has been sponsored in the House by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.
“Improving customer service at federal agencies is not a partisan issue. Federal employees are dedicated civil servants who want to deliver services to taxpayers as best they can,” Connolly said in a statement. “The FACE Act will improve customer service by allowing agencies to collect feedback, measure customer satisfaction, and use the feedback to improve their service.”
Previous versions of the legislation unanimously passed the Senate in 2017 and the House in 2018, but a final version never made it to the president’s desk for signature.
If passed, agencies “could survey customers at points of service, like after a transaction, using standard questions that have already been developed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget,” Stephanie Thum, founder of Practical CX and formerly the vice president of customer experience at the Export-Import Bank, told Nextgov.
Using standard questions allows agencies to bypass sometimes onerous approval processes with OMB, though agencies could opt to add customized survey questions for customers. Results from questions approved under FACE would have to be reported publicly through OMB, Thum said.
Thum added that, if passed, the FACE Act may better inform other Biden administration policy pushes, including its focus on equity. A recent OMB study submitted to the White House indicated that reducing “sludge”—a term referring to paperwork burdens and bureaucratic processes—increases equity. Thum said the FACE Act could provide a natural starting point for assessing how people feel about certain agencies.
“If [the FACE Act] were to pass and agencies did survey consistently at certain points of service and publish the results, you could conceivably have some starting reflection of people's experiences with sludge and red tape with U.S. federal government agencies,” Thum said. “Sludge has been identified as being a barrier to achieving equity in government customer experience.”