For years, federal agencies have had a problem with collecting and measuring customer feedback. If you asked why, you usually wouldn’t hear that it had anything to do with tools, technology, or talent. It had to do with a law known as the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), which put into place a mandatory, complex, inter-agency collaborative process that oftentimes took months or up to a year to complete before surveys could actually go out. That process and length of time was, and still is, a major deterrent to agencies collecting feedback and measuring customer experience.

But fast forward to last Thursday night, and what may turn out to be a significant step toward removing many of those barriers.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed The Federal Agency Customer Experience Act of 2018 (H.R.2846) just over a year after the U.S. Senate companion bill (S.1088) passed. To become law from here, discrepancies in each chamber’s version of the bill will need to be worked out before it heads to the president’s desk for signature.

If passed, perhaps most significantly, the act would reduce or remove PRA barriers to issuing voluntary customer feedback surveys. The PRA process has been the biggest problem agencies have cited to this point when it comes to reaching out to customers for feedback.

The act would also require certain high-impact federal agencies to collect certain pieces of anonymous, voluntary customer feedback and then periodically report that feedback publicly, on their websites. That part of the proposed legislation isn’t too different from the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) customer experience guidance issued to agencies last June via Circular A-11 Section 280. Additionally, as part of the act, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) would create a public, government-wide customer experience scorecard to show everyone which agencies excel and which need to improve.

Timing, due to the looming government shutdown, could play into the bill’s final success or failure. If a shutdown doesn’t happen, it may actually pass into law before the congressional turnover in January. It wouldn’t be the first time non-controversial bills related to customer experience passed around the holidays; earlier in 2018 the Connected Government Act, which required federal websites to be more mobile friendly, passed on January 10. Additionally the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which protects citizens from getting sued for writing negative online reviews, and the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (PMIAA) which elevates the role and expertise (which includes customer focus) of program managers in agency programs passed around this time in 2016.

If the act reaches the president for signature, it would be several more weeks before agencies would see written translation of how the act should be carried out inside of agencies.  OMB would issue that guidance. We look forward to seeing what happens next with the FACE Act.

 

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Author Bio: Stephanie Thum is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and Chief Advisor for Federal Customer Experience at Qualtrics. In a past life, Stephanie was the head of CX for a federal government agency where she built a CX program that included customer surveys, executive councils, employee engagement, and data governance practices. She was also responsible for coordinating her agency’s public-facing annual performance plan and report, based on OMB Circular A-11. She is formally trained in strategic planning for government organizations and in planning, budgeting, and performance reporting for government organizations.