Passport Services This customer experience profile is from 2020. To view this year’s profile, click here. User Interactions Customer Feedback Social Media Presence Customer Experience Indicators Executive Summary In 2019, people applying for or renewing passports faced longer wait times compared with the previous year due in part to a near record number of passport applications. The situation did not improve in the first half of 2020, despite a decline in international travel. The coronavirus led the State Department to curtail many passport services, further increasing wait times and leading to a backlog of 1.6 million passport applications as of June 2020. As operations began to resume, the number of passports awaiting issuance decreased to 938,000 by the end of August—close to a typical number for that time of year. Prior to the pandemic, customers reported being satisfied with many aspects of passport services, including the convenience of the application process, and the knowledge and professionalism of passport services staff. Additionally, the bureau’s website provides clear and user-friendly information about passports, according to our analysis of selected pages. Online options for renewing or applying for a new passport would further improve the customer experience. Currently, these services are only provided in person or through the mail. More Profiles Airport Security Screening and Passenger Support Services Citizenship and Immigration Applicant Services Customs Airport Security and Screening Services Farm Loan and Conservation Service Federal Student Aid Individual Taxpayer Services Medicare Customer Support Services Outdoor Recreation Reservations for Federal Lands Passport Services Veterans Education and Training Benefits Veterans Outpatient Health Care Services Service Overview Primary Customers Citizens applying for or holding U.S. passports. Key services Information on and assistance with applying for, renewing and canceling passports. Processing of passport applications, renewals and cancellations, and issuance of passports. 20.6 million passports issued.1(21.1 million in fiscal 2018) Expedited passports for emergency travel. overall satisfaction score with passport services in fiscal 2019 customers surveyed who were satisfied with passport web pages in fiscal 2019 Approximately 8-day increase in processing times for routine passport applications during fiscal 2019 People Interact With Passport Services By (All data for fiscal year 2019) CALLING THE NATIONAL PASSPORT INFORMATION CENTER 5.1 million calls (4.3 million in fiscal 2018) Percent of calls answered within two minutes:2 First quarter: 99.8%. Second quarter: 99.2%. Third quarter: 89%. Fourth quarter: 96.8%. VISITING ONLINE 59.8 million visits to passport pages on travel.state.gov3 (69.5 million visits in fiscal 2018)4 SUBMITTING APPLICATIONS AT A PASSPORT AGENCY 938,340 applications received Customer Experience Insights Click tabs to expand People are satisfied with the process of applying for passports overall, and value the knowledge and professionalism of passport services staff. Staff at both the contact centers and local passport offices receive extensive training to resolve customer issues, and the organization celebrates examples of excellent service through awards and newsletters. The bureau also ensures staff members across the organization have consistent information when interacting with customers, so that people get the same guidance no matter how they contact the bureau. Passport services application process survey results (fiscal 2019, all scores out of 100 points)5 How satisfied are you with passport services in all of your experiences to date? 87 How convenient was the application process? 84 How long did it take to receive your passport? 81 How professional was the staff where you applied for your passport? 90 How knowledgeable was the staff where you applied for your passport? 91 How do these numbers compare? 68.1 on scale of 0 to 100: the aggregated score across federal services measured in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Online information and guidance about passports are easy to understand and navigate. Selected webpages that explain how to renew a passport and receive a passport quickly for emergency international travel received an A in our analysis.6 91% of customers were satisfied with Passport Services web pages on travel.state.gov in fiscal 2019, according to a survey conducted by the bureau.7 Click to see full results of our website experience analysis Website Experience: How easy is it to navigate and understand online information? Reviewers looked at the pages from the perspective of people seeking to answer two questions: How can I receive a passport quickly for emergency travel? travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/get-fast.html travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/get-fast/emergencies.html How do I renew my passport before it expires? travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/have-passport/renew.html Passport Services Grade A Strengths The site is organized around the tasks users want to complete, such as getting a passport or renewing a passport by mail. Language is clear and concise, delivering the most relevant information upfront. Effective placement of information and variations in font size help users quickly and easily see what is important and relevant. Standout feature: guidance on expedited passports One highlight is a table that outlines different reasons an individual may need to travel quickly. The table enables users to easily get to the page that addresses their unique situations, delivering the maximum amount of information with minimal effort on their part. Opportunities to improve: The site could use more color to emphasize critical points Figure: A clear and to-the-point table that directs users to the information they need. (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/get-fast.html) Figure: Navigation is clear and simple, and based on tasks users need to complete (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html/) People are waiting longer to receive their passports. Processing time for routine passport services in fiscal 20198 Q1: 6.5 business days Q2: 9.8 business days Q3: 14.4 business days Q4: 14.3 business days Processing times for passports rose in fiscal 2019 due to an increased number of applications and a reduced number of passport specialists – the bureau had challenges filling these roles after a Department-wide hiring freeze that lasted from January 2017 to May 2018.9 To help adjust customers’ expectations, the bureau upped its estimated time frame for receiving a passport that year to six to eight weeks, instead of four to six weeks. In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic increased processing times even as international travel slowed drastically. On March 19, the bureau curtailed passport services to serve only those people who needed to travel for an emergency, as 95% of staff responsible for processing passports were sent home for their safety. This led to a backlog of 1.6 million passport applications as of June 2020.10 At that time, the bureau was not providing an estimated timeline for how long it would take to receive a passport, noting only that applicants should expect significant delays. This backlog was greatly reduced by the end of August. Customers cannot apply for or renew a passport online. Customers cannot apply for or renew a passport online due to constraints with the department’s information technology systems. The bureau’s plans to enable customers to apply for or renew passports online have been delayed, according to agency officials. Key Improvement from last year Ongoing challenge Connecting on Social Media The Bureau of Consular Affairs primarily uses its platforms to share information critical for U.S citizens traveling abroad, such as how to apply for a U.S. passport and what to know about international safety and security matters. It hosts sessions on social media platforms such as Facebook to answer questions and provide tips about applying for passports. Additionally, all passport agencies and centers have a presence on Yelp and use the site to analyze customer feedback, and respond to questions and concerns. Some passport agencies receive glowing reviews from customers on the site. As of September 2020, the Bureau of Consular Affairs social media presence related to passport services included: Twitter (@travelgov) Joined: July 2008 Followers: 651,600 Total tweets: 28,500 Facebook (@travelgov) Joined: February 2008 Followers: 652,600 Total likes: 616,300 Instagram (@travelgov) Joined: February 2015 Followers: 20,700 Total posts: 256 Yelp (Passport Agencies) Joined: June 2016 Rating: 4.5 stars Social media practices Posts almost daily?Yes Includes multimedia content?Yes – regularly Responds to customers?Yes For background information on these metrics and our full methodology click here. How Passport Services changed during the coronavirus To help protect employees and customers from the coronavirus, in March 2020 the bureau curtailed operations at locations where people apply for passports—limiting services to people facing a “life-or-death emergency” who needed to travel within 72 hours. These restrictions were still in place as of August, with the bureau planning to return to more normal operations once circumstances allow. People could still apply for and renew passports by mail, but between March and June a backlog of applications grew to 1.6 million as the virus prevented staff members from going to the office to process passports. Due to the sensitive nature of passport processing, employees could not work remotely, according to a statement on the bureau’s website. The site also indicated that as more employees returned to work, the number of passports awaiting issuance was down to 938,000 by the end of August—close to a typical number for that time of the year. The National Passport Information Center remained open to answer questions about applying for and receiving passports, including providing customers with status updates seven to ten business days after applying. Indicators that the Customer Experience is a High Priority Click buttons to expand. Commitment to Customer Experience The Bureau: Includes high-quality customer experience in its strategic goals. No However, customer experience is included as a focus area in the bureau’s goals around innovation and modernization. Specifies customer feedback as a key measure of the organization’s performance. No The bureau has a key performance measure based on the timeliness of passport processing but does not include customer feedback. Has a senior executive with the responsibility and authority to lead efforts to improve customer experience across the organization. Partially The deputy assistant secretary of state for passport services oversees all aspects of passport delivery, and improving customer experience is a part of that role. Shares meaningful customer feedback data with the public. Yes See customer survey results above. Customer Service Basics For the most common services provided, customers can: Complete frequently used transactions online. Partially People can access passport applications online but cannot submit the complete application electronically. Easily find information to call an appropriate representative. Yes Schedule in-person appointments. Yes Obtain status updates. Yes Customers typically can get online updates on the status of their passport applications. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, the bureau was unable to provide estimated time frames for when people would receive their passports. Find standardized and consistent information and guidance across channels. Partially Changes to the website and contact center knowledge base are done on an ad hoc basis through coordination with the content managers. Customer Feedback The agency collects and analyzes data and information on customer perceptions: Of specific interactions, including website visits, phone calls and in-person appointments. Yes Of a customer journey through a series of interactions or multistage processes that build toward a specific goal. Yes For example, bureau tracks perceptions of the different steps in applying for a passport. Of the overall service the organization provides. Yes Through qualitative research, such as customer interviews, focus groups, analysis of social media comments or direct observation. Yes The bureau holds focus groups and listening sessions. Through a structured analysis of comments about the service left on social media channels. Yes The bureau analyzes feedback on passport offices left on Yelp. More details about our methodology Footnotes and Methodology Footnotes 1 Travel.state.gov – Reports and Statistics. 2 Passport Services performance data, 2019. 3 Digital Analytics Program reports on performance.gov 4 These numbers may not be comparable between 2018 and 2019 due to a change in how they were reported. 5 Data is from a survey that was emailed to customers after they applied for or renewed a passport. Response rate: 6.1%; Survey scale: 1-10 points, unless noted otherwise. The responses for each question are used to calculate a score between 0-100. 6 We completed our review and analysis before the agency made changes to the pages’ guidance in response to the coronavirus. 7 Data is from a follow-up survey offered to customers upon interacting with webpages on the travel.state.gov website. Response rate: 3%; Response options used a 7-point Likert scale ranging from “extremely dissatisfied” to “extremely satisfied.” The percentage for the question represents the percentage of customers who responded, “extremely satisfied,” “moderately satisfied” or “slightly satisfied.” 8 https://www.performance.gov/cx/dashboard/dos/ca/ 9 Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of State. Review of the Effects of the Department of State Hiring Freeze. 10 https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/16-million-applications-backlogged-republican-senators-urge-state/story?id=71046544 Social media review methodology To assess how agencies use social media to interact with customers, we examined three social media best practices identified through conversations with experts: posting frequently, delivering engaging content and responding to questions. We analyzed the most active Facebook or Twitter account by selecting specific months to examine trends throughout the year, including changes to social media activity during the coronavirus. The team defined posting almost daily as meaning the agency posted for at least 25 out of 30 days on average in September 2019, December 2019, March 2020 and May 2020. Includes multimedia content is defined as whether the agency posted a range of multimedia content with interactive elements beyond just static images. Responds to customers is defined as whether or not agencies respond to questions through the direct message feature on Facebook or in the comment section of posts. To assess this, we examined September 2019, December 2019 and April 2020 (or another month when data was not available). “No” indicates the agency never or rarely responds to comments; “Yes – occasionally” indicates the agency responds sometimes, but there does not appear to be a consistent pattern over time; and “Yes – regularly” indicates the agency responds to comments on a frequent and consistent basis over time. The number of tweets, likes, posts and views reflect the total activity since the social media account was established. Website experience methodology For each agency, we selected for review a set of webpages that customers would theoretically visit to seek answers to frequently asked questions, vetted with each agency. We partnered with the Center for Plain Language to conduct this review. The center followed the same methodology it uses to assess plain language for its annual ClearMark awards for a range of organizations and its annual Federal Plain Language Report Card for the government. Two plain-language experts individually and independently reviewed and scored each set of pages, using five plain-language criteria to assess each site. They rated each criterion on a five-point scale: Information design and navigation. Pictures, graphics and charts. Style or voice. Structure and content. Understanding of audience. The reviewers then met to reach consensus on strengths and weaknesses of each site and to assign a letter grade based on their ratings. Customer experience indicators methodology The Partnership and Accenture developed the following list of indicators to understand how agencies prioritize the customer experience, and steps they can take to improve. The list is based on research about effective customer experience practices in both government and the private sector, and aligns with practices in a customer experience maturity self-assessment for agencies developed by the Office of Management and Budget. Leaders who participated in the Partnership’s federal customer experience roundtable provided input. Commitment to customer experience The agency: Includes high-quality customer experience in its strategic goals. Criteria: 1) customer experience with the agency’s services is listed in the strategic plan as one of the organization’s top priorities or a supporting goal of one of the priorities 2) the strategic plan provides specific actions the agency will take to improve customer experience. Specifies customer feedback as a key measure of the organization’s performance. Criteria: There is a performance measure included in the agency’s strategic plan, annual performance report or agency priority goals that is based on feedback directly from customers Has a senior executive with the responsibility and authority to lead efforts to improve customer experience across the organization. Criteria: Based on a review of the agency organizational chart and online descriptions of leadership positions, the agency has an executive who meets the following criteria: 1) customer experience is his or her primary responsibility 2) he or she reports to the head of the organization or a deputy 3) his or her work spans all major service delivery channels (e.g., online services, contact centers, face-to-face services). Shares meaningful customer feedback with the public.Criteria: In alignment with the Office of Management and Budget’s guidance on customer experience measurement, the agency publishes customer feedback that: 1) represents multiple service delivery channels 2) provides details into different aspects of the experience (e.g., beyond overall customer satisfaction) Customer Service Basics For the most common services provided, customers can: Complete online frequently used transactions.Criteria: Based on a review of the agency’s website, customers can complete major services or transactions online. Easily find information to call an appropriate representative.Criteria: Does the agency’s website provide a clear explanation of which number to call for specific issues or provide one number that customers can call to get routed to the appropriate person. Schedule in-person appointments. Criteria: Based on a review of the agency’s website, customers can schedule appointments for in-person services. Obtain status updates.Criteria: Customers can get current updates through an online or self-service channel that includes estimated timelines on items such as submitted applications or benefit disbursements. Find standardized and consistent information and guidance across channels. Criteria: At least two service delivery channels have integrated knowledge management systems so that when content for customers on one channel is updated, it is updated on the other channel. Customer Feedback The agency collects and analyzes data and information on customer perceptions: Of specific interactions, including website visits, phone calls, and in-person appointments. Of the customer journey through a series of interactions or multi-stage processes that build toward a specific goal. Of the service provided by the organization overall. Through qualitative research, such as customer interviews, focus groups or direct observation. Through a structured analysis of comments about the service left on social media channels. This customer experience profile was produced in collaboration with Accenture Federal Services.