Bill Prioritizes Federal Customer Service—And Cuts Some Red Tape

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It would remove some hoops agencies have to go through before getting citizen feedback.

Congress could be poised to take on the federal government’s customer service problems.

Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Wednesday introduced the Federal Agency Customer Experience Act, bipartisan legislation that would simplify the process agencies go through to gather public feedback about their customer service.

The bill would roll back requirements that force agencies to go through lengthy approval processes to gather voluntary feedback from citizens and customers, and further creates both legislative and executive oversight mechanisms to oversee how agencies deliver services.

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“The bill also directs agencies to post the results to their websites and requires them to use the feedback they receive to improve government services,” Lankford said in a statement. “We must do more to increase federal customer service and remove unnecessary requirements that make basic services tedious and overly bureaucratic.”

The legislation mandates agency heads—or designated officials—collect voluntary feedback from customers “with respect to services of or transactions” made by the agency.

Feedback would be gathered across all channels based on both standardized questions created in tandem by the leaders of the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration, and agency-specific questions developed by senior officials. Those questions would revolve around customer satisfaction, such as the professionalism and timeliness of federal action and potentially other metrics.

Agencies would be required to submit customer service reports based on the feedback they collect to OMB and to post it on their websites. In addition, the legislation would create a centralized website that links to all agencies’ customer service reports.

“Most people think interacting with the federal government is unpleasant. But at the same time we’re making it difficult for agencies to ask the public how they can improve. It makes no sense,” McCaskill said. “This law will allow the federal government to better identify specific customer service issues and start to implement changes to make the government work better for the American people.”

Congress, too, would get regular updates on how agencies perform with regard to customer service.

The bill would require the U.S. comptroller general to deliver scorecard reports “assessing the quality of services provided to the public” of agencies to the Senate.

Fixing the government’s customer services woes—the government routinely ranks below industry—could unite Republicans and Democrats in much the same way the government’s IT issues have. The Obama administration elevated customer service as a major issue, yet agency progress was minimal.

Max Stier, CEO of the government-focused nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said the Federal Agency Customer Experience Act will help agencies improve their service delivery.

“The important legislation introduced today by Sens. Lankford and McCaskill will allow agencies to continue to improve by helping them better understand the concerns of the public, continue to improve in the delivery of services and increase citizen satisfaction,” he said in a statement.

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