Customer experience may be coming to government. This month Congress introduced a bill called the Federal Agency Customer Experience Act of 2017. The bill would remove existing legal barriers in the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) against agencies gathering customer experience data from citizens and set up federal agencies for the kind of direct feedback long practiced in private companies.

“It is the sense of Congress that all agencies should strive to provide high-quality, courteous, effective, and efficient services to the people of the United States and seek to measure, collect, report, and utilize metrics relating to the experience of individuals interacting with agencies to continually improve services to the people of the United States.”

“Most people think interacting with the federal government is unpleasant–but at the same time we’re making it difficult for agencies to ask the public how they can improve.” Senator Claire McCaskill, D-MO

Historically, the emphasis in public policy has been the development of plans for “high-quality, courteous, effective, and efficient services”, but “[measuring, collecting, reporting on, and utilizing]” metrics related to those services have taken a back seat. However, by beginning with the end in mind – ensuring citizens derive value from the services being provided them – it’s easier to pave a path to success. Precious dollars can be better allocated, citizens can better trust government entities, and agencies can better achieve their missions.

While this legislation still has a long way to go, it’s a great leap in citizen-centric governance.

Public Trust

According to recent surveys, only one in five Americans trust the federal government. While some of that skepticism is directed toward elected officials, civilian agencies facilitate the most concrete interactions citizens have with the government, like filing taxes or applying for a passport. And what do citizens expect? A majority, 85 percent, expect digital services specifically to be on par with or better quality than the private sector. As the government’s front line to the people, agencies can work to re-establish public trust by using feedback to improve services.

Fund allocation

Early this month, a comprehensive move toward transparency in government funding took shape. Agencies submitted standardized financial reports to a single place, where the public has access to download or explore the spending data. A combination of this citizen feedback about which government services are and aren’t cutting the mustard – and why – gives agency leadership a transformed vehicle for determining how to allocate precious public dollars toward programs and initiatives that are working.

Agency Mission Achievement

Most agency strategic plans include a customer or stakeholder objective, but satisfaction is often the pinnacle of measurement. In contrast, this bill would add a mechanism for factoring in whether or not individuals are successful in carrying out their desired purpose – and why – not just whether they were satisfied with their interaction. From the bill, “Providing quality services to individuals improves the confidence of the people of the United States in their government and helps agencies achieve greater impact and fulfill their missions.”

Conclusion

“Most people think interacting with the federal government is unpleasant–but at the same time we’re making it difficult for agencies to ask the public how they can improve,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, co-author of the legislation and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

While it’s still very early for this bill, we’re hopeful that removing barriers to citizen feedback collection will help elevate the quality of government services.