Agencies Would Benefit from More Feedback, Report Says

Federal agencies would benefit from loosened rules regarding when and how they can solicit feedback about their services from the public, says a Senate report on S-1088, now awaiting a vote by that chamber.

The report from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee says that the 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act, which was designed to minimize the burden imposed on the public, effectively made it more difficult to gather feedback that could improve agency operations. Under that law, OMB must review agency plans to collect information that must be justified according to their impact, coordinated across agencies and meet certain standards.

“The bill aims to facilitate the gathering of useful and timely customer satisfaction information–the solicitation to participate in a survey is conducted at the point of service–to encourage continuous improvement of agency customer service,” says the report, adding that in the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, the federal government ranked near the bottom in customer satisfaction.

The bill would allow questions regarding overall satisfaction with the interaction or service provided; the extent to which they accomplished their intended task; whether the service was timely; whether they were treated with respect and professionalism; and similar questions as appropriate.

It further would require that responses be voluntary and that agencies make no distinction in their treatment of those who respond or don’t. The results would be made public in aggregated reports posted on agency sites and through a central site managed by OMB.