OMB to reward employees who receive positive customer service reviews

Wednesday - 7/2/2014, 12:37pm EDT

By Ariel Levin-Waldman
Special to Federal News Radio

Federal workers with positive public reviews could be in line to receive awards.

The Office of Management and Budget along with the Social Security Administration released an update to the cross-agency goals June 30. Among them is a push to improve customer service by bringing it more in line with private sector experiences. The plan includes performance reviews and satisfaction surveys to get public feedback on programs and agencies.

OMB says it wants to focus on frontline personnel in these efforts — employees working directly with the public. The office stated its goals include setting up an award structure to recognize workers for outstanding customer service.

The plan indicates the award structure will be completed over the next few months and be ready to launch by the first quarter of 2015. The plan also will create a website that will let the public nominate employees for their service.

Additionally, OMB and SSA want to speed up citizens' access to services as well as make it easier to receive them. The report says many federal services do not meet the expectations of the public, frustrating citizens and creating extra costs and hassles.

OMB still is making a full list of agencies and interactions for review, but it identified a number of areas where customer service could be improved. These include the Transportation Security Administration's security screenings, pensions for veterans, Social Security applications, student loan repayments and Social Security and taxpayer assistance.

While the SSA and OMB have identified where some of the major challenges are cropping up, they said they need more information to figure out the details in order to address them. OMB and SSA want to create a data collection tool to determine which areas need improvement and to solicit more public feedback.

OMB is ensuring this effort has oversight through a customer service goal team, which it created along with a community of practice coordinator role. It also recruited people for that role and established subgroups this past spring. Each agency will name a team and leader to advocate for customer experiences.

The agency customer service teams will share data to determine what works and what does not. The teams eventually will create what OMB calls a governmentwide universal customer satisfaction process.

The OMB report is the latest in the Obama Administration's drive to improve federal customer service. In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order in February requiring agencies to use technology to quickly connect businesses to the most relevant government resources. They also released the digital strategy.

It promotes another approach to updating their Web and mobile services to improve how they reach and interact with citizens and businesses.

The public's review of federal customer service suggest agencies has been 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 Obama administration has set new cross-agency priority goals for managing government as part of its 2015 budget. Federal News Radio examines the eight areas identified by the White House in our special section 2014 Cross Agency Priority Goals.

Ariel Levin-Waldman is an intern with Federal News Radio

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