House passes bipartisan bill to improve Uncle Sam’s customer service

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, introduced the act. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, introduced the act. Charles Dharapak/AP file photo

The House on Tuesday unanimously approved a bipartisan bill to hold agencies more accountable for delivering “front-line customer services” efficiently.

The Government Customer Service Improvement Act, introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, now goes to the Senate, where a companion bill (S. 3455) awaits action in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“Too often we hear that Americans are frustrated with government service,” Cuellar said in a statement. “It is our responsibility to act when we hear that students are having difficulty with federal student loans, or when seniors experience a delay in their retirement benefits. Every taxpayer, every day will benefit from this legislation,” whether through enhanced screening at the airport by Transportation Security Administration personnel or at border port inspections by Customs and Border Protection, he said.

The bill would require the director of the Office of Management and Budget to develop performance measures to determine whether federal agencies are providing high-quality customer service and improving service delivery. It would require agencies to collect feedback from their “customers” on service quality and compel agencies to appoint a customer relations representative to issue guidelines and standards and make the results public.

“I hope that the Senate follows the lead of the House in taking up and passing this bipartisan legislation,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who introduced the companion bill in July with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “Since government agencies aren’t pressed to improve customer service through competition -- as private companies are -- we have to explore other tools to attempt to embed a culture of customer service.”

Warner’s staff pointed to surveys the Federal Customer Experience Study conducted in 2011 showing that 79 percent of Americans felt the government can do a better job.

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