A new one-stop shopping concept, called customer service bureaus, has been developed by the General Services Administration in an effort to make it easier for federal agencies to buy and receive supplies and other services.
Les L. Mitchell, commissioner of GSA's office of Federal Supply and Services, said the single-point contacts will be "a revolutionary new concept in dealing with the GSA."
The "trouble-shooters" heading the new bureaus will be vested with the clout to cut through red tape in areas beyond traditional procurement-related problems, Mitchell said. In addition, the 11 regional customer service bureaus would:
* Supervise the transfer of personal property items, such as desks and chairs, between agencies that don't need them and agencies that do.
* Manage GSA's self-service stores and warehouse supply centers.
* Supervise transportation services for federal employes, including travel arrangements, automobile rentals and the use of interagency motor pool vehicles.
"Now, there are four or five differerent people to go to," Mitchell said. "This one-stop shopping is a forerunner of the GSA I see in the future, where the services provided by other parts of the agency--such as computer and telecommunications services or buildings management and clean-up--could be centralized in these new bureaus."
To promote the new program, GSA has developed a 13-minute slide-and-voice tape designed to help convince federal procurement managers to take advantage of the new service program and to buy more common items from the GSA's supply warehouses and self-service stores. It will be shown across the country over the next several months.
Created for about $5,000 by Image-Matrix, an Alexandria graphics firm, the narration explains that the federal government could save $2 billion a year if all common-use items were bought through GSA . In addition, customer supply centers have been redesigned so federal agency procurement officials can order supplies by telephone. At GSA, operators with on-line minicomputers can immediately determine whether the item is in stock or if there is an acceptable substitute.
The redesigned supply centers have been successfully tested in Boston and Denver, Mitchell said, and have allowed GSA to fill small orders for most common-use items the same day if the customer picks up the product or within 24 hours for delivery by courier. A center in Washington will open April 1 at the Franconia Stores Depot.
The federal government buys about $12 billion worth of commercial goods annually, but GSA supplies only one-fourth of that total. Under GSA's original mandate, as described by the Hoover Commission report in the mid-1940s, the agency was supposed to be the central procurement point for all nonmilitary materials. Over the years, however, agency managers became dissatisfied with service and began buying more and more on their own.
"We're now trying to reverse that trend by showing that we can perform properly," Mitchell said.