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Managing For Results: Opportunities to Strengthen Agencies' Customer Service Efforts

GAO-11-44 Published: Oct 27, 2010. Publicly Released: Oct 27, 2010.
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The federal government has set a goal of providing service to the public that matches or exceeds that of the private sector. Executive Order 12862 (September 11, 1993) and a related 1995 memorandum require agencies to post customer service standards and report results to customers. As requested, this report (1) assesses the extent to which federal agencies are setting customer service standards and measuring related results, (2) assesses the extent to which agencies are reporting standards and results to customers and using the results to improve service, and (3) identifies some customer service management tools and practices used by various governments. The report also examines the steps the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is taking to facilitate agency use of tools and practices. GAO surveyed 13 federal services among those with the most contact with the public, reviewed literature and interviewed agency officials as well as knowledgeable individuals in the area of customer service.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget Building on the progress OMB has already made as part of its customer service initiative, the Director of OMB should direct agencies to consider options to make their customer service standards and results more readily available to customers using documents or Web pages specifically intended for customers, or the dashboard once it is more fully developed.
Closed – Implemented
On June 13, 2011 OMB issued guidance to federal agencies instructing them, among other things, to create Customer Service Plans within 180 days (by October 24th, 2011). According to the guidance, the plan should outline the agency's approach to developing customer service standards that are understandable to the public, easily accessible at the point of service and on the Internet, and measurable (where appropriate).
Office of Management and Budget Building on the progress OMB has already made as part of its customer service initiative, the Director of OMB should collaborate with the President's Management Advisory Board and agencies to evaluate the benefits and costs of applying the tools and practices related to understanding customers' needs, facilitating improved customer decision making, and providing citizens with the information necessary to hold government accountable for customer service, and include those that are found beneficial to the federal government in the initiative on gathering and sharing customer service ideas.
Closed – Implemented
On June 13, 2011, OMB issued a memo stating that it would establish and coordinate a Customer Service Task Force to facilitate the exchange of best practices and the development of agency customer service plans and signature initiatives. Agencies that provide significant services were instructed to identify a senior official who would be responsible to represent the agency on the Task Force. According to the memo, the Task Force would meet regularly until agencies publish their plans. The plans were due on October 24th, 2011.

Full Report

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Agency missionsCustomer serviceData collectionEmployeesFederal agenciesInternal controlsLocal governmentsPerformance appraisalPerformance managementPerformance measuresPractice guidelinesStandardsState governmentsStrategic planningSurveysCustomer satisfaction