Document Name: Business (4 of 23)
Date: 09/01/94
Owner: National Performance Review
Title: Standards for Our Customers: Business (4 of 23)

Author: Vice President Al Gore's National Parformance Review

Date: September, 1994




Peter Rogers, Vice President of Marketing for Micro Systems, Inc.,

thinks he can increase sales in South America. He needs data on

retail markets in Venezuela; qualified overseas agents and

distributors; financing; and maybe even references from influential

people. Who does he ask?

Believe it or not, all these services are available from the

government's Export Assistance Center in Baltimore. The Center houses

people from several federal and state programs at one location so

that the export community can get one-stop service. "Steve Hall of

the Export Assistance Center has been to my office a number of times,

providing a menu of excellent services, now including export-import

financing," says Rogers. "We may have the best product in the world,

but if the customer can't pay for it, it could stop the sale."

Is this really the government? Yes. Steve Hall works for the

Department of Commerce. The Commerce programs he represents, and the

other federal and state programs involved, are meant to assist

exporters. So that makes business the customer.

Export Assistance Centers like the one in Baltimore are planned for

many locations around the country. Right now there are three others,

in Chicago, Miami, and Long Beach. And 11 more are planned for 1995.

Help for business -- that's great. But it is only one of government's

roles. Regulatory agencies have a big effect on business. The same

businessperson who gets assistance from some government agencies is

spending a lot of time preparing taxes and dealing with inspectors

from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Environmental

Protection Agency, and the Occupational Safety and Health

Administration. There are also the Customs Service, the Consumer

Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal

Communications Commission, and more.

The truth is, much of what government does is tax, audit, inspect,

and regulate business. These activities naturally produce some

friction. Viewing businesses as customers is more complicated for

agencies with these roles, but they, too, are working to include

customer service ideas and business input in their approach.

Regulatory Compliance


Many agencies are finding ways to combine strong enforcement of laws

and regulations with encouraging proactive compliance by business.

For example, to protect the health and safety of workers, the

Occupational Safety and Health Administration is helping employers

find and fix workplace hazards.

In its Maine 200 and Wisconsin 100 pilot projects, OSHA gives help to

employers that are considered high-risk because of their injury

rates. OSHA sends information packages that help employers and

employees work together to improve health and safety conditions.

Companies can also get technical advice from OSHA through state

agencies. The programs offer free consultation services, including

no-penalty inspections.

These services to business don't change OSHA's commitment to protect

workers. In fact, they increase the chance that businesses will

eliminate dangers before accidents occur. OSHA's customer service

standards cover both business and workers.


Highlights from Customer Service Standards:

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

OSHA is making these commitments to business:

--- Focus OSHA inspections on the most serious hazards.

--- Be respectful and professional during inspections.

--- Help them identify and control workplace hazards.


There are other examples of regulators taking a more supportive

stance. Commerce's Bureau of Export Administration, which enforces

export controls on sensitive products like military equipment,

conducted about 250 seminars for about 13,000 participants last year.

Its goal was to ensure that exporters know how to comply with export

licensing requirements.

Three hundred executives of thrift institutions got to say what they

thought in face-to-face interviews with Treasury's Office of Thrift

Supervision. OTS, which supervises and regulates these institutions,

heard feedback about confusion and frustration resulting from some

aspects of its bank examination process. Its customer service plan

pledges to take both the mystery and obstacles out of the


Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner announced

the "Common Sense Initiative" on July 20, 1994. Her idea is to create

pollution prevention strategies on an industry-by-industry basis,

instead of the current piecemeal, pollutant-by-pollutant approach.

Federal, state, and local government officials, working with both

environmentalists and industry, will begin by developing strategies

for six industries: auto manufacturing, computers and electronics,

iron and steel, metal finishing and plating, petroleum refining, and


EPA also plans to improve its processing of environmental permits,

which EPA uses to regulate activities like waste disposal and

discharges into the air and water. Permits are issued by federal and

state agencies. EPA recognizes that it has two customers for its

environmental permit programs: citizens and business. Citizens are

the beneficiaries of safe air and drinking water. But it's business,

through its compliance or positive action, that protects or improves

the environment. A new permits improvement team is seeking help from

state agencies, community groups, environmental organizations, and

those regulated by environmental permits. The goal is to reduce the

red tape while ensuring that the environment is protected.

The Small Business Administration convened a Small Business Forum on

Regulatory Reform with representatives from five industries and six

regulatory agencies to look at ways to improve federal regulation.

Among other things, the group wanted uniform and cost-effective

strategies that facilitate voluntary compliance, better coordination

among federal agencies, and more small business input in the

formulation of regulations. In July, the group issued its first

report. Highlighting the industry input, it recommended specific

actions that the agencies are now reviewing.

For advocates of customer-driven government, these increases in

industry input are good news -- and a good start.


Highlights from Customer Service Standards:

U.S. Customs Service

The U.S. Customs Service is absolutely certain that treating business

as a customer increases compliance. So Commissioner George Weise

takes a customer service point of view when he talks about business.

"We must keep in mind the customer's perspective in the way we

perform our mission," he explains. "Their impression defines the

quality of the service we provide." The following are examples of the

customer service standards for businesses Customs is publishing.

--- Customs field offices will respond to your request for binding

rulings within 30 days unless the issue must be referred to a Customs

attorney, in which case rulings will be issued within 120 days of


--- Customs will notify the importer and/or the broker of cargo

detentions within five working days.

--- Customs will respond to any inquiry made of our Entry Specialist

Teams within four business hours.

--- If the quota or quota/visa entry is electronically transmitted,

Customs will review these documents and grant quota acceptance

status, if appropriate, within six business hours of presentation.

--- On-line import transactions will be completed in less than seven


--- Batch transactions will be turned around to the user's terminal

in no more than 15 minutes for the Automated Broker interface; five

minutes for the Air Manifest Interface; and 15 minutes for the Sea

Manifest Interface.


Business Assistance


Fifteen years ago, when Mama Jo's and Zeno's Pizza in Wichita Falls,

Texas, was getting started, it took the owners four weeks to work

with a bank loan officer to fill out the application for a Small

Business Administration loan, gather all the relevant documents, and

wait for the government to respond. This year, when they wanted money

to expand, the whole process took only three days, start to finish.

The agency has cut the red tape for small business financing. The old

piles of paper have been eliminated and the remaining application is

only one sheet -- two sides. It requires so little documentation that

it is building a name as "Low Doc." The Small Business Administration

is one of several agencies providing financial assistance and

publishing customer service standards.


Highlights from Customer Service Standards:

Financial Assistance for business

Financial assistance has been available from government for many

years in the form of loans, loan guarantees, insurance, and even

grants. Customers of these parts of government have said it's the

paperwork and the lengthy process that deters them from applying.

Many federal agencies are addressing these issues with customer

service standards like these.

Small Business Administration


--- 7(a) Guaranteed Loan Program: As an applicant for financial

assistance, you can expect to have an answer from SBA within two

weeks of our receipt of your completed application. If the

application is processed through the Preferred Lender Program or the

Certified Lender Program, an answer can be expected within 24 hours

or three working days respectively.

--- Low Documentation Loan Program: As an applicant for financial

assistance of $100,000 or less, you can expect to have an answer from

SBA within three business days from receipt of your completed


--- Greenline Program: As an applicant for financial assistance to

finance short-term, cyclical, working capital needs, you can expect

an answer from SBA within two weeks of receipt of your completed

application from your lender.

Export-Import Bank


--- Ex-Im Bank will not keep its customers waiting. We promise that

we will respond to your queries or complaints within two business


--- Ex-Im Bank's Insurance staff will process 85 percent of Short-

term applications within two weeks and 90 percent of the Multibuyer

policies before the anniversary date, and inform the customer bi-

weekly of the status of the additional 15/10 percent until resolved.

--- Ex-Im Bank's United States Division will process 100 percent of

all Preferred Lender Program transactions within 10 days of receipt

of a completed application.

--- Ex-Im Bank's Claim and Recovery Division will process at least 90

percent of all cash receipt collections for existing claims within 20

business days of receipts and acknowledge claims filed under all

programs in writing to the claimant within two business days of


Department of Agriculture,

Rural Development Administration, Business Loan Guarantees


--- We will conduct a review of your loan application to verify

completeness and compliance with applicable requirements within 10

working days after receiving the application.

--- We will issue the loan guarantee for your loan within two working

days from the time the lending institution holds the final loan


Department of Transportation,

Maritime Administration, Federal Ship Financing


--- We will evaluate the completeness of your application and provide

you with an initial response within 10 to 14 days.

--- We will respond to your phone calls within 24 hours.

--- We will respond to your information requests within one to three


--- We will process a complete application within 60 days.

--- We will treat you with courtesy and respect at all times.


The State Department is helping businesses operating overseas. One of

its satisfied customers wrote: "I just wanted to let you know how

much I appreciate the positive stance the American Consulate has

taken toward U.S. companies doing business in Japan. I have always

thought that if American organizations don't help each other out in

Japan, then who will?"

The State Department is looking to expand its services to businesses

operating overseas. According to Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott, "We

plan to include not only a case-by-case business facilitation, but

also the broader area of creating through negotiations and agreements

a friendly business climate for American firms -- one that will

enable medium and small firms as well as larger ones to conduct

business overseas."

If you need help from various agencies of the Department of

Agriculture, put your walking shoes on. Your nearest field offices of

the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, the Farmers

Home Administration, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, the

Rural Development Administration, and the Soil Conservation Service

may each have a different location. Agriculture recently surveyed its

customers; they said: "We want services in one location. We want to

deal with one person or one team who understands us." Agriculture is

taking its customers' advice and is creating one-stop Field Service

Centers throughout the nation. Some are already in place; most will

be running by 1998.

Technological transfer to assist business is a growing priority for

some federal agencies. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

programs actively promote the commercial potential of the agency's

technologies, while three of the Department of Energy's five goals

are focused on business: help industry shift from waste management to

pollution prevention; partner with the private sector for a two-way

technological exchange; and accelerate national use of emerging


DOE is putting numbers with its promises to do more work with

business. Effective immediately, it is devoting at least 15 percent

of the department's research and development budget to partnerships

with the private sector. The department is also aggressive about

setting up more partnerships with business. Cooperative Research and

Development Agreements (CRADAs) are a primary tool for defining joint

work between the national labs, managed by DOE, and the private

sector. DOE has promised to process the paperwork for new CRADAs in

less than 16 weeks on average.

The federal government is also on the information superhighway,

providing business and others with information quickly. FedWorld, a

service of the Department of Commerce, is an on-line information

network serving as a gateway to 130 other government systems and

still growing. Access to FedWorld is provided at no charge, and calls

to the Help Desk are answered by a person, not a recording, 24 hours

a day. Downloadable products ordered by credit card are delivered

within 30 seconds.

Also provided by Commerce, STAT-USA has the most extensive

government-sponsored business, economic, and trade database system in

the world. One of STAT-USA's standards commits to posting all

information within 30 minutes of receipt and promises, "If we do not

ship your order within 24 hours, we will send you one CD-ROM free."

Research Support


Many of the federal government's research and scientific activities

support the needs and interests of business. See the "Research and

Academic Community" section for more on these standards.

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