An Executive Order issued last week by President Obama requires federal agencies to “streamline and improve delivery of their services so the public receives the “competent, efficient, and responsive service” it deserves.  The president said agencies have not kept pace with improvements in service delivery systems used in the private sector.  They must understand public needs, he said, and learn from the private sector what practices work best, such as “self-service options assessed by the internet or mobile phone.”   Applying such practices will enable agencies to deliver services faster and reduce customer complaints, according to the order.

Jeffrey Zients, the government’s Chief Performance Officer, has also been critical of how agencies deliver services to the public.  He has said that agencies’ service delivery practices often experience high costs and have fallen behind private sector performance.  He has also cited the need to improve and streamline the government’s 20,000 websites, in particular.  Zients was tasked with developing guidance for implementing the Executive Order.

The Executive Order directs agencies to develop, within 180 days, a Customer Service Plan that streamlines service delivery and improves customer experience.  The Order describes a customer as any individual, business, State and Local government, or other agency that receives significant services. 

Each plan will establish one major initiative that uses technology to improve the public’s experience.  The plans will also 1) set a process to receive customer feedback, 2) set clear service standards, 3) adopt proven best practices, and 4) identify how will use innovative technologies to streamline delivery and reduce costs.  Each plan will be published on the agency’s Open Government web page.