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GSA Promotes Best Practices for Citizen Service

GSA # 10591  

May 11, 2009
Contact: Tobi Edler, 202-501-9087
tobi.edler@gsa.gov   

WASHINGTON — The federal agencies receiving the U.S. General Services Administration's Citizen Services Award saved taxpayers $6 million, reduced online benefits claims filing time to 15 minutes and saved 227,000 hours in online searching time.

As part of an effort to enhance the public’s experience with government, GSA's Office of Citizen Services annually presents the award to three government agencies that have excelled in the area of customer service via web, telephone or email. Each year the competition is open to all federal, state and local government agencies who want to be recognized as the leaders and innovators of improvements in citizen engagement.

The 2008 applicants were asked to include the Web 2.0 and new media tools used to promote the awareness of their services. Of the agencies nominated, the Centers for Disease Control, the Social Security Administration and the Small Business Administration adopted systems that translated into better communication and better services for the American taxpayer.

“These leaders and their efforts in citizen services provide excellent models and best practices for other agencies to learn from,” said Martha Dorris, Acting Associate Administrator of the Office of Citizen Services and Communication. "The three winners were selected for their cost-saving programs, innovative problem-solving, teamwork and program consolidation. The judges also considered information accuracy, citizen satisfaction, quality staff retention, performance management, program accomplishments and improvement."

With the goal of making it easier for citizens to get information and services from the government, the Office of Citizen Services collaborates with other agencies governmentwide to highlight best practices.

The Centers for Disease Control consolidated several toll-free numbers into a single line that saved $6 million. It used a mobile version of its website, podcasts, videos and a MySpace page to promote the new toll-free number that covered topics across the agency.

The Social Security Administration made dramatic improvements to its online filing system, iClaim. Since the launch in December 2008 the online benefit filing rate has increased by 15 percent. Studies found that citizens using iClaim can complete their Internet benefit claim in as little as 15 minutes and that the overall processing takes less time than claims prepared in the office or over the telephone. SSA used videos featuring actress Patty Duke on its YouTube channel, resulting in viral marketing, or a quick spread online to blogs. SSA also used podcasting to promote one of its newest publications "When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits."

The Small Business Administration created an online community partnership with 21 other federal agencies where small businesses, experts and government employees could share information about starting and running a business. Business.gov has a large and growing following and is recognized by small-business experts as effectively using this channel to communicate and be responsive to citizen inquiries, with an aim to leverage benefits and improve satisfaction. SBA implemented state-of-the-art custom search technology and users reported more than 227,000 hours in saved searching time in January.

“We want to use this awards program to encourage all agencies to take a renewed look at their attitude toward government customer service and to know that any effort to improve the experience for taxpayers is valued,” said Dorris.

The GSA Office of Citizen Services presents the awards each year at the Interagency Resource Management Conference in April. All three winners received a crystal bowl trophy, a physical representation of the values of transparent, open and collaborative government.

This year's judges were executives from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, and GSA.

The Office of Citizen Services also provides leadership in enhancing government service to the public by creating networks of federal, state, and local government officials, by facilitating the use of Web 2.0 and new media channels, and by coordinating communities of interest among government web managers and among contact center managers. To learn more about OCS activities and how to join its networks, go to CitizenServices.gov.

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