Reinvention Closes a Gap

Last year, the Bonneville Power Administration looked at the future and found a problem. The combination of new competitors in the wholesale power market along with BPA's growing costs revealed a half-billion-dollar gap between projected revenues and expenses. BPA is determined not to raise rates; if it does, utility companies may stop buying electricity from BPA, and its other main customers, aluminum smelters (with their 10,000 jobs), may go out of business.

BPA joined forces with its customers and is well on the way to success. Together they have developed and are implementing a business plan that gives customers new choices (like buying cheaper but less dependable power), encourages conservation by charging more for increased usage, and streamlines the BPA organization by nearly 800 jobs.

To date, over 100 federal agencies have published about 1,500 customer service standards; they are included in the customer service report NPR is publishing this month. Federal agencies also plan to publish their complete customer service plans elsewhere and hang posters in their public offices that advertise the standards they have set.

For example, the Social Security Administration promises to issue new Social Security numbers within a day and replace cards within five days. The Economics and Statistics Administration, which sells international trade information, promises to mail a customer's order within 24 hours or make it free. And the Postal Service has begun to guarantee lobby service within five minutes in many of its regions, with other regions planning to follow soon.

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