Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Back in April, President Obama issued an executive order directing agencies to step up their efforts to improve customer service. Whatever happened?
Back in April, President Obama issued an executive order directing agencies to step up their efforts to improve customer service. Whatever happened?

The Executive Order gave agencies until the last week of October to provide their plans to the Office of Management and Budget, and last week the plans were delivered and posted on OMB’s governmentwide performance website.  As originally envisioned, the emphasis would be on the use of technology to improve customer service, and the agencies plans reflect that approach.

The executive order, and the subsequent OMB guidance to agencies, directed agencies to both designate a lead for their agency’s customer service initiatives and to develop an action plan that includes a “signature initiative.”  The agency leads across government formed the Customer Service Task Force, and its members served as peer reviewers of each other’s draft plans.  There’s also a “best practices” website.

In an article for NextGov, “Agencies Outline Technology-Based Customer Service Initiatives,” Joseph Marks highlights several of the signature initiatives:

  • The Social Security Administration is expanding its use of video hearings for disability claims, reducing the need to travel long distances for administrative appeal hearings.
  • The Interior Department is creating a unified public database that will combine numerous stand-alone scientific data repositories within the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Marks also notes that “The White House has launched several initiatives to improve the government's public face, most notably a plan to drastically cut down the federal Web presence, which has grown to more than 15,000 sites. The program is aimed, in part, at transitioning federal websites from an agency-based organizing principle to a user-based model, making it easier for citizens to get information about a government service even if they don't know which agency to turn to.”

OMB deputy director for management, Jeff Zients, showcased several other agencies in a blog post last week, noting that:

  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will develop an application on its website that will enable a taxpayer to securely send an electronic transcript of his or her tax records to an authorized third party, such as a bank to obtain a mortgage or other loan. 
  • The Department of State is developing a pilot so that individuals can apply for a passport card online. Accepting electronic signatures and payments should reduce processing times, overall costs of processing over a million passport cards a year, and ease the application process for U.S. citizens traveling by land and sea to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
  • Through HealthCare.gov's Insurance Plan Finder, the Department of Health and Human Services will launch a new Small Group service, which allows small business owners to see: benefit and cost sharing information for insurance plans available in their local areas.

The Back Story

If you are new to this topic and interested in some of the background, here are some other relevant links:

Earlier blog posts:


Graphic Credit:  Relevant Trafik