Mark Warner introduces bill to improve federal customer service

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) introduced bipartisan legislation Monday to establish, monitor and improve customer service delivery across federal agencies.

The Government Customer Service Improvement Act of 2012 will require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to work with federal agencies to develop specific customer service standards, requires each agency to designate a Service Improvement Officer responsible for monitoring progress, and requires annual reporting on customer service results by agency.  The bipartisan legislation also establishes a special unit within OMB to temporarily assist those agencies which consistently fail to meet customer service standards.

“Government customer service delivery breakdowns appear in the headlines all too often. Many of our veterans wait too long for critical medical services, and federal retirees often wait months before they begin to receive full benefits. That simply is not acceptable,” Sen. Warner said. “As any business school graduate can tell you, ‘what gets measured gets done.’ I believe citizens should expect federal agencies to deliver customer service at least as well as the private sector does and, unfortunately, too often that is not the case.”

“Companies that have to succeed in the free market have an incentive to constantly improve customer service. Bad customer service means reduced profits and the risk of failure. Government agencies simply don’t have to respond to competition the way private companies do,” Sen. Johnson, a former plastics manufacturing executive, said. “This legislation ensures that federal agencies are responsive to the taxpayers who fund them by requiring the development of customer service standards and performance measures at each agency. By embedding the concept of customer service into government operations, agencies will ultimately become more efficient and effective. This is just common sense.”

Millions of Americans depend on federal agencies for vital services, and delays in processing those requests oftentimes causes understandable frustration and unacceptable hardship. This bipartisan legislation seeks to make the federal agency customer service process both more transparent and efficient. Agencies will be monitored and held accountable, and this legislation seeks to better focus limited resources on improving front-line customer service functions.

Finally, the Government Customer Service Improvement Act of 2012 also sets specific service improvement targets for the Office of Personnel Management, an agency which has experienced chronic backlogs for several years in processing retirement benefits for federal employees. In February 2012, it took an average of five months for federal retirees to receive their first full benefit check, though delays of a year or more were common. In addition, customers who call OPM consistently experience busy signals and significant wait times. Sen. Warner has a specific interest in reducing the OPM backlog because Virginia is home to approximately 130,000 federal retirees.

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