How Congress can help build a true ‘government for the people’
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How Congress can help build a true ‘government for the people’

April 26, 2022 | Updated on April 25, 2022
Karen Evans, David Grant

The American public relies on government services to meet many critical needs. However, our government too often struggles to meet customer expectations and deliver modern services that ensure customer satisfaction and build public trust. Customer satisfaction with federal services recently dropped to an all-time low of just over 63% and trust in government has remained in decline for years.

To reverse this downward trend, our government must improve the customer experience and regain the public’s trust. This effort requires Congress to support federal agencies’ capacity to identify and test new approaches that aim to better serve the public. Passing the Federal Agency Customer Experience Actbipartisan legislation that is now pending in Congress—is the answer.

Building a ‘government for the people’

Recently, the Biden administration and executive branch agencies have redoubled their efforts to improve the federal customer experience.

The Partnership for Public Service’s “Government for the Peoplereport highlights a few of these improvements.

For instance, the Veterans Health Administration created a training session for clinical contact center staff that focuses on building trust with veterans during telehealth phone calls. The initiative is one of many that have increased veterans’ trust in the VA by 24% since 2016.

In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency maximized technological capabilities by pivoting to remote video home inspections for disaster relief, eliminating the need for in-person inspections and speeding up the process.

Like other recent administrations, the Biden administration has also prioritized the federal customer experience. In November, the administration made the customer experience a cornerstone of the President’s Management Agenda. A month later, it also issued an executive order on transforming the way agencies serve the public.

The FACE Act: What Congress can do

These examples illustrate how executive branch agencies continue to improve the public’s interactions with government.

However, the executive branch will not realize its full potential in this area without help from Congress.

The Federal Agency Customer Experience Act, or the FACE Act, is pending bipartisan legislation that would improve the federal customer experience and increase trust in government.  

For example, the act would reduce barriers for agencies to collect and analyze voluntary feedback directly from the public regarding federal services. This feedback would ensure agencies are continually learning and making services more responsive to and equitable for customers, and will help agencies identify how their own policies, operations and procedures inhibit their ability to improve the customer experience.

The FACE Act also makes needed updates to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. In its current form, the law includes restrictions that require agencies to go through a convoluted approval process before being allowed to collect valuable public feedback. This process can often take more than six months to complete, increasing the time it takes for agencies to gather customer insights and improve their services accordingly.

Members of Congress can help create a sustainable government-wide approach to modernizing federal services and improving public trust in our federal government.

Passing the FACE Act into law is a good place to start. This bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., will help improve how agencies engage with the public and ensure our government meets the needs of all the people in our country.

Karen Evans is the managing director for the Cyber Readiness Institute. She formerly served as chief information officer at the Department of Homeland Security and was the first assistant secretary for Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response as the Department of Energy.

David Grant is partner at Potomac Ridge Consulting. He previously served as acting deputy administrator and chief procurement officer as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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