Monday, April 30, 2012

Customer Service Act Is Good News for Citizens and Employees

Good news!  The Federal Customer Service Enhancement Act, H.R. 538 has passed out of a House committee and is moving forward.  What?  You’ve never heard of the Federal Customer Service Enhancement Act?  Oh, my.  Well, let me tell you about it because this law would be great news for public servants and citizens alike. 

The Act would add support and permanence to President Obama's Executive Order on customer service.  What I like most is that it calls for agencies to credit and reward employees for great customer service.  Bingo!  The Act legitimizes “customer service” as an organizational value; and it recognizes that great customer service depends on government employees who know their customers, care about what they want and need, and go the extra mile to make sure they get it. 

So let me back up and summarize the Customer Service Act for you.  It requires:  
  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish performance measures and standards to make sure government is providing high-quality customer service;
  • Agency heads to measure customer satisfaction through "surveys, focus groups, or other appropriate methods” (like usability testing, I hope!);  
  • Agencies to report customer service data annually and OMB to issue a report;
  • Agency heads to designate a Customer Relations Representative; and
  • Agencies to publish customer service contact information.  Great customer service includes providing help to customers who get stuck, don’t understand, or just need extra support.
And here's what shows that the drafters of this legislation “get it” about what it takes to create a culture of customer service.   It says:
  • Agency heads may pay cash awards to employees who demonstrate excellence in customer service; and 
  • “Compliance with customer service standards developed under this Act shall, to the extent practicable, be an element of a performance appraisal system.” 
Yay!  Employees who already go above and beyond the call of duty to serve their customers will get credit for it in their annual performance appraisals.  And employees who need to do a bit more…well, they’ll know it because their bosses will document those expectations in their performance standards.  Agencies can celebrate their successes in customer service by shining the light on employees who really do it right.  It’s a win for government employees, and it’s a win for customers who depend on those employees to provide great service. 

This Act has a long way to go.  But it’s off to a good start.  It sends an important message:  citizens want and deserve great customer service from their government, and government needs to value those employees who deliver.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Rightdoing at GSA

Today, I want to throw some kudos to one of my favorite agencies, the General Services Administration (GSA).  GSA does great things for the federal government and the American people – including save taxpayer dollars.  They provide services to federal agencies.  But as important, they coordinate important management efforts across agencies, helping eliminate expensive duplication of effort.  How do I know?  I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Take web management in the federal government, for example.  In 2004, at the request of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), GSA stepped into a leadership role to help implement the E-Gov Act of 2002.  Bev Godwin and Sheila Campbell and others reached out across agencies to form working groups that researched and proposed web policies to OMB, to comply with the Act.  From that hugely successful effort came the Federal Web Managers Council, Digital Government University (originally Web Manager University), and (originally the Government Webmanagers’ Toolkit).  As a result, agencies no longer have to reinvent the wheel, when it comes to web operations – they can use to find requirements, best practices, resources, and examples.  They can go to DGU classes and learn from experts, with their peers. 

GSA has continued to fill a void by coordinating the governmentwide mobile strategy and by spearheading new efforts to reduce waste and duplication in the number of government domains and websites.  GSA’s First Fridays program gives government agencies an opportunity for FREE usability testing and hands on training so agencies can continue to test and improve their websites on their own.  Believe me – you can pay big bucks to hire contractors to do usability testing. 

And that’s not all.  The team at GSA is working to consolidate web content from across agencies by topic – making it easier for customers to find and use the services they want.  GSA is leading efforts to bridge service delivery channels (web, social media, call centers, publications), helping agencies make sure services and information are coordinated and seamless, no matter how customers look for them.  GSA is the hub of customer service improvements, across government.

One of the biggest money wasters in government is duplication of effort.  You have no idea.  The more we can share strategies and policies and operating procedures and job descriptions and statements of work and knowledge and resources, the less it costs the taxpayers.  The more we consolidate and eliminate duplication, the more efficient (and effective) government is.  GSA provides coordination and leadership to make that happen.  They’ve got a great bunch of people there, working hard, and making a difference.

Well done, GSA.  Keep up the good work.  We notice.  And it matters.