Defense Logistics:

Improving Customer Feedback Program Could Enhance DLA's Delivery of Services

GAO-02-776: Published: Sep 9, 2002. Publicly Released: Sep 9, 2002.

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The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) performs a critical role in supporting America's military forces worldwide by supplying every consumable item--from food to jet fuel--that the military services need to operate. Although customers at the eight locations GAO visited were satisfied with some aspects of routine service, such as delivery time for routine parts and certain contractor service arrangements, customers also raised a number of points of dissatisfaction, particularly with regard to the detrimental impact of DLA's service on their operations. The agency's approach for obtaining customer service feedback has been of limited usefulness because it lacks a systematic integrated approach for obtaining adequate information on customer service problems. Although DLA has initiatives under way to improve its customer service, there are opportunities to enhance these initiatives to provide for an improved customer feedback program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DLA has developed a comprehensive approach for obtaining customer feedback through its DLA Customer Assessment Strategy. According to DOD, this approach includes a holistic methodology, survey capability, and customer assessment strategy to respond to customer perceptions, concerns, and requirements. The strategy is linked to DLA goals and processes and provides performance measures beyond customer satisfaction scores. In developing this customer feedback plan, DLA issued a formal Request for Information (RFI) to query industry on the best of world class ideas, concepts and methodologies on customer assessment. Based on the industry responses from the RFI, DLA developed a long term contractual solution for a comprehensive customer assessment strategy that encompasses all key areas of a customer assessment program and addresses low response rates and a critically needed database with named customers, email addresses, phone numbers, etc.

    Recommendation: To improve DLA's ability to determine its customers' needs, identify solutions for better meeting those needs, improve the supply readiness of military units, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of depot maintenance repair activities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to require the Director of DLA, as part of the agency's customer relationship improvement efforts, to develop a comprehensive plan for obtaining customer feedback.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Defense Logistics Executive Board will be used as the forum to obtain military department input on the specific organizations that will be responsible for working with DLA on customer feedback issues. Further, DLA is working with the military organizations to identify accountable officials for providing/receiving customer feedback. Although this action has been initiated by DLA and not by the individual services, it meets the intent of the recommendation to identify specific organizations responsible for working with DLA to (1) establish a mutually agreed upon determination of what activities are to be considered DLA customers and (2) to work with DLA in implementing its customer feedback program.

    Recommendation: To improve DLA's ability to determine its customers' needs, identify solutions for better meeting those needs, improve the supply readiness of military units, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of depot maintenance repair activities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to identify specific organizations that will be responsible for working with DLA in establishing a mutually agreed determination of those activities, organizations, and individuals that function as DLA "customers" and for working with DLA as it implements its customer feedback program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Defense Logistics Executive Board will be used as the forum to obtain military department input on the specific organizations that will be responsible for working with DLA on customer feedback issues. Further, DLA is working with the military organizations to identify accountable officials for providing/receiving customer feedback. Although this action has been initiated by DLA and not by the individual services, it meets the intent of the recommendation to identify specific organizations responsible for working with DLA to (1) establish a mutually agreed upon determination of what activities are to be considered DLA customers and (2) to work with DLA in implementing its customer feedback program.

    Recommendation: To improve DLA's ability to determine its customers' needs, identify solutions for better meeting those needs, improve the supply readiness of military units, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of depot maintenance repair activities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to identify specific organizations that will be responsible for working with DLA in establishing a mutually agreed determination of those activities, organizations, and individuals that function as DLA "customers" and for working with DLA as it implements its customer feedback program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Defense Logistics Executive Board will be used as the forum to obtain military department input on the specific organizations that will be responsible for working with DLA on customer feedback issues. Further, DLA is working with the military organizations to identify accountable officials for providing/receiving customer feedback. Although this action has been initiated by DLA and not by the individual services, it meets the intent of the recommendation to identify specific organizations responsible for working with DLA to (1) establish a mutually agreed upon determination of what activities are to be considered DLA customers and (2) to work with DLA in implementing its customer feedback program.

    Recommendation: To improve DLA's ability to determine its customers' needs, identify solutions for better meeting those needs, improve the supply readiness of military units, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of depot maintenance repair activities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to identify specific organizations that will be responsible for working with DLA in establishing a mutually agreed determination of those activities, organizations, and individuals that function as DLA "customers" and for working with DLA as it implements its customer feedback program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DLA made significant changes to its survey during cycle 17 (conducted between April 2004 to August 2004) to obtain insight from customers on the issue of low and declining response rates. DLA also is developing a customer profile database to help improve response. Further, DLA issued a request for information (RFI) to gain insight on industry best practices for a comprehensive customer assessment program. After evaluation of the RFI responses, DLA decided to proceed with its original plan to have its current contractor assist in developing a new Customer Assessment Strategy.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics should require the Director of DLA, as part of the agency's customer relationship improvement efforts, to improve the usefulness of its customer survey instruments by identifying ways to improve customer response rates, such as the use of effective follow-up procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Secretary of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD noted that DLA has standard guidance and performance criteria for its customer representatives and that these representatives obtain regular feedback, as demonstrated by monthly customer support representatives' reports. However, as GAO reported, DLA's customer representatives did not proactively solicit feedback from all the customers located in the representatives' geographical area. As a result, although the DLA representatives may be regularly obtaining feedback from selected customers, the current guidance and performance criteria have not been effective in ensuring that feedback was being routinely collected from all customers.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics should require the Director of DLA, as part of the agency's customer relationship improvement efforts, to clarify guidance for customer support representatives to ensure that they are responsible for routinely contacting customers to obtain customer feedback.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Secretary of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DLA has developed a comprehensive approach for obtaining customer feedback through its DLA Customer Assessment Strategy. According to DOD, this approach includes a holistic methodology, survey capability, and customer assessment strategy to respond to customer perceptions, concerns, and requirements. Under DLA's customer feedback program, the Defense Logistics Executive Board will be used as the forum to obtain military department input on the specific organizations that will be responsible for working with DLA on customer feedback issues. Further, DLA is working with the military organizations to identify accountable officials for providing/receiving customer feedback.

    Recommendation: As part of the agency's customer relationship improvement efforts, DLA should develop a comprehensive plan for obtaining customer feedback by working with the military services to arrive at a mutually agreed determination of the military organizations that function as DLA "customers." In doing so, both DLA and the services should identify officials accountable for providing and receiving customer feedback.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Defense Logistics Agency

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DLA has developed a comprehensive approach for obtaining customer feedback through its DLA Customer Assessment Strategy. According to DOD, this approach includes a holistic methodology, survey capability, and customer assessment strategy to respond to customer perceptions, concerns, and requirements. In developing this strategy, DLA issued a formal Request for Information (RFI) to query industry on the best of world class ideas, concepts and methodologies on customer assessment. Based on the industry responses from the RFI, DLA developed a long term contractual solution for a comprehensive customer assessment strategy that encompasses all key areas of a customer assessment program and addresses low response rates and a critically needed database with named customers and contact information.

    Recommendation: As part of the agency's customer relationship improvement efforts, DLA should develop a comprehensive plan for obtaining customer feedback that includes developing a customer feedback program that uses a variety of approaches such as those depicted in the best practices research discussed in this report. In developing this program, pilot tests could be used to determine which approaches meet agency and customer needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Defense Logistics Agency

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DLA has developed a comprehensive approach for obtaining customer feedback through its DLA Customer Assessment Strategy. According to DOD, this approach includes a holistic methodology, survey capability, and customer assessment strategy to respond to customer perceptions, concerns, and requirements. DLA has established the Customer Relations Management Office in its Logistics Operations Division as the accountable office for the customer feedback program. Further, it has designated a project manager (PM) for customer assessment. Several milestones have been set for developing the customer assessment program, which is expected to be completed in fiscal year 2007.

    Recommendation: As part of the agency's customer relationship improvement efforts, DLA should develop a comprehensive plan that includes milestones for implementing the customer feedback program and for identifying the office accountable for its implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Defense Logistics Agency

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DLA has developed a comprehensive approach for obtaining customer feedback through its DLA Customer Assessment Strategy. According to DOD, this approach includes a holistic methodology, survey capability, and customer assessment strategy to respond to customer perceptions, concerns, and requirements. In developing its customer feedback plan, DLA's project manager (PM) for customer assessment worked with a contractor and DLA headquarters personnel to develop a plan for centralizing various DLA customer feedback. Customer feedback data and program improvements are being, and will continue to be, published internally and externally to improve communications with customers.

    Recommendation: As part of the agency's customer relationship improvement efforts, DLA should develop a comprehensive plan that integrates all customer feedback into an overall assessment to provide managers with a better understanding of customers' perceptions and concerns.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Defense Logistics Agency

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DLA headquarters has implemented regular in-process reviews (IPR) with DLA field activities to review customer feedback data and determine how field activities will utilize this information to improve customer concerns.

    Recommendation: As part of the agency's customer relationship improvement efforts, DLA should develop a comprehensive plan that establishes a process for developing actions in response to issues that are identified from the customer feedback program and involve customers in the process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Defense Logistics Agency

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DLA has developed a comprehensive approach for obtaining customer feedback through its DLA Customer Assessment Strategy. According to DOD, this approach includes a holistic methodology, survey capability, and customer assessment strategy to respond to customer perceptions, concerns, and requirements. Under DLA's approach, several actions have been taken to improve DLA's communications with its customers, such as (1) publishing customer feedback data and program improvements to improve communications with customers, and (2) developing a webpage that discusses customer feedback.

    Recommendation: As part of the agency's customer relationship improvement efforts, DLA should develop a comprehensive plan that establishes a process for providing customers with information on actions that are being taken to address customer feedback issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Defense Logistics Agency

 

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