Just A Little Common Sense

So much of what is happening to improve customer service comes from simply giving federal employees the goal of serving customers and the freedom to do it. Often their ideas are low-cost or money-saving testimonials to the return of common sense.

One morning, Hugh Doran, Director of the VA Medical Center in Kansas City, walked to his office from his reserved parking space just outside the clinic entrance. His parking space was in a lot also used by physicians and other health care providers. That morning, Director Doran decided to charge a diverse group of employees, patients, and service officers with evaluating the overall parking situation. The group recommended converting the existing reserved lot to patient parking. Now, Doran parks with all his employees and walks through the new patient parking lot next to the building.

A few months later, Doran and his team were discussing the need for space to accommodate primary care patients. They realized that the most convenient place for primary care was on the first floor, and Doran decided to move the director's and administrative offices out of their prime first-floor space. Very soon, they were relocated to the fifth floor, and the first floor was converted to primary care facilities. Today that area is dedicated to serving over 3,500 veterans.

Moving administration around to make life better for veterans is a trend at VA. They did it in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and Wichita, Kansas. In Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Biloxi, they moved to make first-floor space available for easy-to-reach facilities devoted to women's needs.

Common sense changes save some money, too. Gail Mirsky works with victims and witnesses at the Justice Department. She noticed that witnesses and victims who needed to travel for the Justice Department had to book their own travel. After their trips, they sent in travel vouchers and waited to be paid. Gail figured that, instead, the government could set up an account with a travel agent, where travel could be booked at the government's volume discount and paid directly, so witnesses could avoid being out of pocket for expenses. This works like a charm and also saved the government about $150,000 in the first 15 months.

Forest Service employees are also putting their money-making, common-sense ideas to work. Did you ever wonder what happens to all those big trees cut each year from city streets and parks? Most end up in landfills or, at best, in a compost pile or firewood stack. In New Jersey, the Forest Service showed a couple of towns how to cut the trees for sawmill use, resulting in new wood products, jobs, and income for the cities.

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