In the latest sign that government is striving to become more citizen centric, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would set government-wide customer service standards. The bill, which was sponsored by two Texas congressmen, Henry Cuellar (D) and Michael McCaul (R), would require the Office of Management and Budget to set customer service standards, including targets for response times. If it's passed into law, the proposal would also establish a specialized team for helping agencies that consistently miss their customer service goals.The bill reflects efforts by local, state, and federal agencies to become more customer-focused, taking a page from the private sector. "Citizens should expect federal agencies to deliver customer services at least as well as the private sector does, but this often is not the case," says Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).
In the U.S. and in other countries, there's increased pressure for government agencies to become more customer centric and transparent in their interactions with citizens as citizen trust in government has tumbled over the past several decades. According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual study examining the state of trust in government, business, media, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) among 30,000+ people in 25 countries, citizens in a majority of countries say they don't trust their governments. On a nine-point scale where one means citizens "do not trust them at all" and nine means that citizens "trust them a great deal," citizens in countries such as Spain (20 percent), Japan (25 percent) and Russian (26 percent) have low levels of trust in government.
As Peppers & Rogers Group notes in a recent white paper on the importance of building citizen trust in government, "Trust allows people to interact more efficiently and government ministries to operate more effectively. If we trust our sources so much that we don't have to check those sources or verify details, then we can rely on what we learn immediately, whether we're paying a bill, trying to find a government regulation, or complete an online application for a permit. We filter information based on trust. By contrast, untrustworthy interactions are very inefficient. We have to double check everything. We may have to check with an expert before we act."
One way to strengthen citizen trust in government is by empowering people to have a greater voice in their communities. As 1to1 Media's Anna Papachristos notes in a recent article, the city of Boston actively promotes "constituent engagement" across all levels of local government, encouraging citizens to become "the eyes and ears" of their local neighborhoods.