WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), James Lankford (R-OK), and John Cornyn (R-TX) to improve and streamline the customer service that federal agencies provide in person, online, and over the phone has advanced in the Senate. The federal government provides a wide range of critical services, though many agencies can be difficult to navigate. Agencies that have made efforts to prioritize customer experience – including by offering services that limit wait times and hold times – have improved their ability to deliver services for the American people. The Improving Government Services Act would encourage all government agencies to offer a better and more secure experience for taxpayers by adopting customer service best practices from the private sector. The bill was passed by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where Peters serves as Chair, and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
“The federal government interacts with millions of taxpayers every day, but these interactions can lead to long wait times and poor customer service experiences,” said Senator Peters. “My commonsense bipartisan legislation will ensure that agencies improve taxpayer satisfaction by implementing private sector best practices like call backs and online services.”
“I have worked for years across the aisle to get federal agencies to use private-sector best practices to improve customer service and promote privacy and data security,” said Senator Lankford. “Some agencies have already successfully implemented private-sector best practices, but we need them government-wide. Providing good customer service doesn’t have to be difficult. Let’s get this nonpartisan bill to the finish line so interacting with the federal government is less frustrating for the public.”
“Taxpayers are often forced to navigate red tape, outdated websites, and long wait times when trying to access the federal agency services their tax dollars fund,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation would help federal agencies improve their ‘customer satisfaction’ by requiring them to adopt proven customer service practices from the private sector.”
“We applaud Sen. Peters, Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Lankford for their focus on customer experience and improved federal services. From taxpayers seeking IRS assistance to veterans receiving health care, the public engages with government services in countless ways and it’s important to ensure those services are user-friendly and accessible. Tackling this critical issue will help strengthen trust in our government and provide people with the high-quality federal services they expect and deserve,” Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.
Agencies that have prioritized customer service best practices have not only seen their ability to deliver services improve, they have improved their customer satisfaction as well. For example, after implementing some new customer service strategies, such as establishing a single phone number to access benefits and services and new ways for veterans to quickly access information, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) saw veterans’ trust in the agency rise from 55 percent in 2016 to nearly 80 percent in 2023. The VA reported that in 2022, their AskVA service to improve responses to veterans’ questions successfully resolved 98% of inquiries received through the new system. By modernizing its call centers, the VA was able to address more than 50 million calls in 2022, leading to more than 70% of customers reporting that the service addressed their needs.
The senators’ legislation would require agencies to develop a written comprehensive strategy to improve customer experience, including a plan to adopt appropriate customer service best practices from the private sector such as online services, telephone call back services, and employee training programs. The bill also requires agencies to plan for long-term customer service improvements – including adoption of the latest technologies that can better serve the public – and to assess which services they can co-locate with other federal services or offer self-service customer experience options.