WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, James Lankford (R-OK), and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve and streamline the customer service that federal agencies provide in person, online, and over the phone. 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.
“Taxpayers must be able to easily and efficiently reach federal agencies when they have questions about services or benefits,” said Senator Peters. “My commonsense bipartisan bill would require agencies to adopt customer service best practices that limit wait times and use callbacks to ensure taxpayers receive support in a timely manner.”
“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“Taxpayers are often forced to navigate red tape, outdated websites, and long wait times when trying to access the federal agency services their tax dollars fund,” said Senator Cornyn.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.”
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.