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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 5, 1995
                  214 Departments, Agencies Pledge Better,
                     Faster Service For American People

President Clinton and Vice President Gore today announced that 214 federal departments and agencies have pledged to provide better, faster and more efficient service for the American people -- promises they will publish and measure on a regular basis.

"The American people know they want a federal government that listens to their concerns and responds quickly and efficiently to their needs. That's what common sense government is all about," President Clinton said. "One way to meet this goal is by setting customer service standards, just as the private sector has done so successfully. This way, the American people know what to expect when they interact with their government, and federal employees know the level of service they are required to provide."

Vice President Gore said, "Common sense government is about restoring Americans' confidence in their government. If we want the American people to believe that we can compete in world markets, make our streets safe and educate the next generation, we must be able to answer the phone and give quick, effective and courteous service. Customer service standards are an important step in that process."

PUTTING CUSTOMERS FIRST '95: Standards for Serving the American People is part of the National Performance Review to make government work better and cost less, an initiative headed by Vice President Gore. It is the second report on customer service standards, and the result of an executive order issued by President Clinton two years ago to the heads of all departments and agencies. The executive order directed them to identify their customers, ask them what they want from the department or agency, publish standards based on those responses, empower their front-line employees to make decisions in order to provide better service, and measure the results.

The report outlines pledges from 214 departments and agencies to provide better customer service, including 24-hour hotlines, 10-minutes-or-less waiting, and seven-second computer connections where people can get needed government information on-line. It emphasizes that the American people want their federal government to listen to their concerns, and get things right the first time. They want to know where to go for help with problems, and they want those problems solved quickly. They also want to deal with reliable and courteous federal employees.

For example, the Internal Revenue Service thought they were helping their customers by getting tax forms into every home right after New Year's Eve. When the IRS surveyed its customers, however, it found that what they wanted most was as little contact as possible with the IRS, and a quick refund. The IRS responded, and now 20 million taxpayers in 50 states who use the 1040-EZ forms can file over their touch-tone phones. The IRS pledges to provide refunds within 21 days versus the 40 days it takes for paper-filers.

Other customer service standards outlined in the report include:

          Consumer Product Safety Commission -- A hotline available
          24-hours-a-day for customer complaints and product recall

          National Archives and Records Administration -- 15 minutes after
          a customer walks in, she will have the needed information or be
          provided with other help.

          Bureau of Labor Statistics -- Timely data any way a customer
          wants it: from a real person, fax, microfiche, diskette, or the

          Department of Veterans Affairs -- At medical or service centers,
          a 20-minute-or-less wait for service.

          Social Security Administration -- New or replacement cards mailed
          in five days.  If urgent, SSA will provide a customer her number
          in one day.

          Indian Health Service -- Employees will verbally identify 
          themselves on contact, wear our name tags, and tell
          customers about services available.

For a copy of PUTTING CUSTOMERS FIRST '95: Standards for Serving the American People, please call 202-632-0150.