GSA kicks off governmentwide customer service program

The General Services Administration today launched the first iteration of the USA Services initiative, which through the National Contact Center will answer misdirected e-mail, postal mail and telephone calls for 11 agencies and one bureau.

'This is the first comprehensive customer service department for citizens and the agencies,' said Mary Joy Jameson, GSA associate administrator in the Office of Citizen Services and Communications. 'This will improve services to the citizen tremendously.'

USA Services is one of the last of the Office of Management and Budget's 25 Quicksilver e-government initiatives to complete its first phase.

'Eighteen months ago, we asked if we are answering citizens' questions well and the answer was a resounding 'no,'' said Clay Johnson, OMB's deputy director for management. 'Every agency had its own approach and we were ineffective and inefficient. USA Services is the answer to make it better and for agencies to respond in a concerted and cooperative fashion.'

GSA signed agreements with 11 agencies and one bureau, including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State and Treasury, and the Food and Drug Administration, GSA, the Small Business Administration and the Social Security Administration. USA Services will provide answers to each of the agencies' most frequently asked questions through the Federal Citizen Information Center at www.pueblo.gsa.gov. GSA does not charge agencies for the service, Jameson said.

Agencies work with GSA to develop answers to the FAQs and provide research assistance. Stephen Perry, GSA administrator, said most easy questions will be answered within a few hours, while researchers will answer more difficult ones in less than two days.

GSA also will offer agencies the capability to answer general inquiries in a fee-for-service model, Jameson said. The cost still is undecided, she added.

'USA Services will streamline and simplify the process by which citizens will interact with government,' Perry said. 'It provides easier access and allows citizens to use the channel of their choice to contact us, either phone, e-mail or postal mail.'

GSA piloted the program with Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service starting July 1 and answered 300 phones calls and 50 e-mails a day, said Teresa Nasif, director of the FCIC.

Jameson said USA Services will save agencies money, make it easier for citizens to find information about individual agencies and allow agencies to focus on their core missions.

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