Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform passed Congressman Henry Cuellar's (D-Laredo) Government Customer Service Improvement Act with unanimous bipartisan support, bringing it one step closer to becoming law. Cuellar's bill, H.R. 538, would set in place standards to increase the quality of customer service provided by government agencies and ensure taxpayers get the quality of service they deserve.
"The primary purpose of the federal government is to serve the American people. When taxpayers interact with a government agency, they deserve the same timely, reliable assistance they would expect from a private sector business. My bill would raise the bar for federal customer service and help improve transactions between the American people and the agencies that serve them," said Congressman Cuellar. "With a sweeping 79% of Americans dissatisfied with federal government service, I am committed to changing how Uncle Sam and taxpayers work together. Improving customer service from passport issues to student loans to Medicare is long overdue; strengthening service to the public is vital to operate a better government."
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, offered support for the bill and recommended that the bill move to the floor to be considered by the House of Representatives. Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Committee, also voiced his support for the bill and underscored the value of customer service.
The Government Customer Service Improvement Act would establish improved customer service standards for federal agencies, including the IRS, Social Security, TSA and more. According to the 2011 Federal Customer Experience Study, 79% of Americans believe the federal government can improve customer service, and only 31% are very satisfied with federal service. Additionally, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that "the surveyed services' standards were often made available in a way that would not be easy for customers to find and access or, in the case of two services, were not made available to the public at all." Currently, U.S. law does not provide for customer service standards for federal agencies.
"The Partnership for Public Service applauds Representative Cuellar for his efforts to shine a spotlight on government performance and ultimately make our government more efficient, effective and results-oriented," said Max Stier, President and CEO of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. "Having publicly-available data on the quality of federal agency customer service will raise a red flag for any agencies that are struggling and highlight best practices at agencies that excel in customer service."
The bill will now go to the full U.S. House of Representatives for potential floor consideration.
The Government Customer Service Improvement Act:
· Improves customer service standards by requiring the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop performance measures
· Raises the bar for enhancing quality and access by establishing standards to increase the quality of customer service and enhance access to federal information and services
· Puts a face on accountability by creating a customer relations representative within each federal agency who is directed to issue guidelines and standards for customer service, which would be made publicly available
· Does not add to the deficit because it requires federal agencies both to use their existing budgets to enact these changes and to direct any savings created toward reducing the deficit