Progress Report


Setting Customer Service Standards

It was President Clinton who turned to the goal of customer service four days after the arrival of NPR's report. In his executive order of Sept. 11, 1993, he set the broad parameters for government's approach and elevated the issue to a matter of utmost importance.

"Putting people first means ensuring that the federal government provides the highest quality service possible to the American people," he wrote. "Public officials must embark upon a revolution within the federal government to change the way it does business." [3]

Specifically, the order set a standard for the quality of service: Customer service equal to the best in business. It also called on departments and agencies to identify and survey their customers; post service standards and measure results against them; benchmark their performance against the best in business; survey front-line workers on ideas for, and barriers to, reaching that standard; give customers choices on sources of services and means of delivery; make information, services, and complaint systems easily accessible; and provide ways to address customer complaints.

The President ordered that, by September 1994, each agency would publish an easily understandable customer service plan that includes its customer service standards, its future plans for customer surveys, and the public or private standards it used to benchmark against the best in business.

OMB has helped the agencies comply. On September 29, 1993, the OMB Director announced three initiatives to facilitate the development, review, and operation of customer surveys--a resource manual, "generic" clearances to support customer survey research, and a training program in customer survey methods.

In December 1994, under the new streamlined clearance process, OMB granted SSA and the Indian Health Service the first generic clearances for customer surveys; since then, OMB has approved close to two dozen generic clearances authorizing hundreds of customer satisfaction surveys. It cut time for these surveys from 12 weeks to two. More than 400 participants from across government have attended training programs in customer survey methods, including consultative sessions and short courses.


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