Improving Customer Service

NPR Recommendations

ICS01 Create Customer-Driven Programs in All Departments and Agencies That Provide Services Directly to the Public.
ICS02Customer Service Performance Standards Internal Revenue Service
ICS03Customer Service Performance Standards Social Security Administration
ICS04 Customer Service Performance Standards Postal Service
ICS05Streamline Ways to Collect Customer Satisfaction and Other Information From the Public

Progress to Date

In September 1993, President Clinton directed agencies to set customer service standards. To date, 214 agencies have published more than 3,000 standards telling their customers what kind of service to expect. The standards were developed by asking customers what they want; they are part of the agencies' response to Presidential Executive Order 12862 to build a customer-driven government. In his order, the President set an overall service goal to "equal the best in business."

Once their standards were issued, the agencies went to work to make good on their promises to be courteous, quick, accurate, and accessible. For example, each quarter, the Postal Service now publishes on-time delivery percentages in local papers around the country. In mid-1996, it achieved a historic high of 90 percent across the country. Counter service in five minutes or less is a national Postal Service goal, with signs posted in those local offices that have committed to fulfill the standard. A 1-800 service has been available since 1994 to respond to customer inquiries.

Agencies also are applying information technology to deliver better service. This past year, the Internal Revenue Service made tax forms available on the Internet filling a huge demand as April 15th approached. Agencies have developed new ways to serve as well. A one-stop U.S. General Store for Small Business opened in Houston in 1995, providing links to services offered by dozens of government agencies. That pilot was so successful that a second store was opened in Atlanta in the spring of 1996.

The President also directed agencies to measure their results and report them to their customers. To date, more than one million customers have participated in voluntary surveys of satisfaction. The results of these surveys are being used to improve both service and standards.

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