House passes bill to improve federal customer service

The House on Friday approved a bipartisan bill aimed at improving customer service from federal agencies.

The measure, sponsored by two Texas congressmen, Henry Cuellar (D) and Michael McCaul (R), would require the Office of Management and Budget to set government-wide customer service standards, including targets for response times. It would also establish a specialized team to help agencies that consistently fail to meet the goals.

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The legislation has a high likelihood of passing in the Senate, as a bipartisan companion measure was already proposed in that chamber. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who sponsored the Senate bill along with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), applauded the House vote on Friday.

“Citizens should expect federal agencies to deliver customer services at least as well as the private sector does, but this often is not the case,” Warner said.

Johnson also commended the vote, saying: “By embedding the concept of customer service into government operations, agencies will ultimately become more efficient and effective. This is just common sense.”

The Office of Personnel Management this year launched an initiative to improve one of the federal government’s most serious customer service problems affecting its own workforce: A backlog in retirement claims that has caused delays lasting more than a year in some cases.

The office is expected to release a report next week detailing improvements in the wait times since the program was launched.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks | August 2, 2013