Bill makes customer service part of feds' evaluations

Monday - 4/23/2012, 10:38am EDT

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)

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Customer service could be a part of federal employees' performance evaluations if a new House bill passes.

The provision is one of many proposals to boost customer service included in the Federal Customer Service Enhancement Act — or H.R. 538 — that passed out of a House committee last week.

The bill would direct the Office of Management and Budget to set customer service standards and name a customer relations representative at each agency. The bill would also allow agency heads to pay cash awards to feds who demonstrate "excellence in customer service," according to the proposed legislation.

Some agencies have warned that their service to the public will suffer due to leaner budgets.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Calif.) (Photo from House.gov)

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the bill's sponsor, said budget cuts are not an excuse for poor customer service.

"Just because we reduce the budget doesn't mean we lose the common courtesy and the common service that have to provide anybody," he said in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.

The public's review of federal customer service suggest agencies have an uphill battle. The 2011 Federal Customer Experience Study found only 31 percent of Americans were very satisfied with federal service, and 79 percent said they believed the federal government could improve their customer service.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform passed the proposal last week, and the next step is to have the full House vote on the bill, Cuellar said.

Cuellar said he introduced a similar bill a couple years ago that passed the House but faced resistance from unions that saw "customer service as something that can be used against them when re-evaluated," he said.

"The individual is the core for customer service," Cuellar said. "I think how people treat the people that pay their salaries, that should be part of an evaluation."

The bill's provisions expand on an April 2011 executive order that called for improving federal customer service through developing best practices and creating ways for more customer feedback.

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