ArchiveNational Partnership for Reinventing Government
An Information Sheet for Federal Communicators, Managers, Workers, and Their Partners--Pass It On
Putting Customers First '95 Released December 5
The Department of Veterans Affairs promises a 20-minute or less wait for service at medical or service centers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics pledges to provide timely data any way a customer wants it: from a real person, fax, microfiche, diskette, or the Internet.
And if you need a new or replacement Social Security card, Social Security promises to mail it in 5 days. If it's really urgent, the agency says you'll get your number in 1 day.
These promises are among the 3,073 customer service standards developed by 214 federal agencies and departments to implement President Clinton's 1993 Executive Order. The order calls for standards equal to the best in business.
The President and Vice President released the standards in the second customer service report, Putting Customers First '95, on December 5. "This way the American people know what to expect when they interact with their government, and federal employees know the level of service they are required to provide," the President said.
"They Clearly Deserve an A-plus"
USA TODAY ran a dynamite story the same day. "Government: New, improved, user-friendly," the headline read. The story quoted Donald Kettl, a University of Wisconsin political scientist who gives the government's customer service initiative high marks. "For effort they clearly deserve an A-plus on this. For level of performance, they're out there in the B to B-minus range because it's a hard, hard, hard job," Kettl said.
Only three agencies had standards in 1993--Social Security, IRS, and the Postal Service. The number went up to 150 in 1994 and reached 214 this year, according to Candy Kane, who heads the National Performance Review's customer service initiative. Now the challenge is implementation. "Today's standards are based on what is achievable today, with an eye on raising the bar in the future," she said. "Federal employees are proud of what they are achieving, and they should be."
For Help or to Get Copies of the Report
NPR is sponsoring customer service workshops on Dec. 15 and Jan. 9 to help agencies publicize and implement their standards. For information, call Gretchen Kozub at (202) 632-1166. To get a copy of the report, call (202) 632-0150. For large orders, call GPO at (202) 512-1800. The report is on Internet at http://www.npr.gov.
So your team or agency is trying to make what it does more timely, more user-friendly, and whatever else your customers say they want. If your innovation is getting results, maybe it's time you applied for the Vice President's Hammer Award. Compare what you're doing with these winners who got their awards this week.
Who's on FIRST? Five Forest Service employees in Lakeview, Oregon--all working in different technical support divisions--figured out that they could solve their customers' computer, telecommunications, or geographic information problems better if they worked as an integrated team. So, they just did it. Now the Fremont Information Resource Services Team (FIRST) works together quickly and easily. No prior approval from different bosses, no coordinating different division work schedules, no bureaucratic baloney, just expert solutions. Calls are coming in from every part of the forest, other agencies are coming to FIRST for help, and even a local university has become a client. Contact Charles R. Graham at (503) 947-2151.
Common Sense Makes Cents! Seven small towns in Oregon and Idaho are collaborating with the state and federal governments to clean up the environment without bankrupting their town treasuries. The Environmental Protection Agency is focusing on flexibility, partnership, and common sense instead of fines and traditional enforcement. Employees at the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality and EPA are working in partnership with budget-conscious small towns in setting environmental priorities. It's a model because staff provide hands-on assistance to get the job done. Contact James Werntz at (206) 553-2634.
Out with the Old, in with the New Today, when a veteran contacts the reinvented Veterans Service Center in Portland, OR, he or she deals with just one person throughout the entire claims process. Before the process was reinvented, one unit of the VA Regional Office adjudicated claims, another unit handled public contacts --each independently of the other. People and folders were passed back and forth. Now, with customer service the priority, each team member handles everything from conducting the walk-in interview to tracking the status of the claim. Besides pleasing the customer, the office reduced the number of claims pending from Aug. 1994 to Aug. 1995 by 3,000. The number of cases over 6 months old was reduced by 50 percent. Federal workers are happier, too, because they are empowered to make decisions. Contact Bob Conlee at (503) 326-7561 or Tom Furukawa at (503) 326-2414.
On the Spot Service Social Security and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami established a joint office at the hospital so that eligible patients could apply for disability before they leave the hospital. From April to August 1995, the Cooperative Disability Project almost doubled the number of disability claims handled in a month without adding staff. Contact Jose L. Lastra at (305) 651-1292.
Your team or agency can get information about the Hammer Award by e-mail and apply the same way. Or, you can use traditional FAX or mail. Contact Jerry Nikolaus at (202) 632-0391, fax 0390, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail address is below.
We want your success stories. For more information, contact Pat Wood , National Performance Review, 750-17th St., NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006, (202) 632-0223; FAX: (202) 632-0390; e-Mail: email@example.com.