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U.S. Department of State
95/10/01 Report on Customer Satisfaction
Bureau of Consular Affairs




                     REPORT ON CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

In response to Executive Order 12862 dated September 11, 1993, the 
Bureau of Consular Affairs of the Department of State published customer 
service standards in September 1994.  Those service standards were 
developed through surveys, conducted the previous year, of our many 
customers.  They told us that above all they expect timeliness, courtesy 
and professionalism in handling their requests for service.  Although 
the majority of our customers were generally satisfied with the services 
they received as reflected in the surveys, we are pleased to report that 
during the year since publication of the standards we have undertaken a 
number of constructive activities to ensure that critical customer 
requirements and expectations are integrated into every aspect of our 
work.

The mission of the Bureau of Consular Affairs is to administer laws, 
formulate regulations and implement policies related to the broad range 
of consular services provided to American citizens abroad.  In carrying 
out this responsibility we advise and support our Embassies and 
Consulates in providing emergency and non-emergency services to American 
citizens residing or traveling abroad and to interested parties in the 
United States.  Issuance of U.S. passports to meet the travel needs of 
American citizens and services to foreign nationals seeking visas to 
visit or reside legally in the United States are also responsibilities 
of the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Our customers, therefore, include all American citizens who travel 
abroad (approximately 45 million annually), their concerned friends and 
families who remain behind, and the over 8 million foreign nationals who 
seek visas to visit or reside in the United States.  These are the 
individuals whom we have targeted this year for even better service than 
we provided in the past.  Our actual performance as regards each of the 
four standards which we established a year ago is discussed below.

PASSPORT SERVICES

TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT POSSIBLE, YOU WILL RECEIVE PASSPORT SERVICES TO 
MEET YOUR INDIVIDUAL TRAVEL NEEDS.  EVERY EFFORT WILL BE MADE TO ISSUE 
YOUR PASSPORT WITHIN 25 DAYS OF RECEIPT OF YOUR APPLICATION.

Since 1992 the number of passports issued has increased by 50 per cent, 
with individual productivity increasing by 35 per cent during the same 
time period.  Our workload increased 13 per cent between 1994 and 1995.  
We expect to issue 5.4 million passports this year, up from 4.9 million 
in 1994.  Nevertheless, we have continued to meet the published customer 
service standard of issuing passports in less than 25 days from the date 
of receipt.

One important indicator of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction is 
the number of written complaints to Passport Service Headquarters from 
Congressional offices on behalf of their constituents.  Despite the 
increased workload (and the loss of 42 senior employees under 
reinvention guidelines), the number of Congressional complaints has 
declined.  To date in 1995, we have received only one-half the number of 
Congressional complaints that were received during the same period in 
1994.

Following up on its full-scale customer survey in 1994, the Passport 
Office distributed 50,000 flyers soliciting comments from passport 
customers.  Responses included the following comments:

"One of the most efficient and courteous federal agencies that I've come 
across."

"Keep up the good work! This service quality is reminiscent of top-rated 
private sector companies."

"Best service received from any government agency."

"It's refreshing to finally see a government agency that really works to 
serve me, the customer, the taxpayer."

From the Assistant Director for Public Affairs of the VFW:  "For once, 
I've found an outfit for which I have no suggestions for improvement.  
You're perfect!"

The managers of the National Passport Center in New Hampshire, which 
currently handles 25-30 per cent of all passport applications, recently 
held a brainstorming session with their employees to discuss efficiency 
and productivity, customer service, automation and employee well-being.  
A number of useful suggestions resulted, all of which are being pursued 
through various avenues by the Bureau.

At a recent four-country conference on passports, the United States 
Passport Office compared favorably with its counterparts in Canada, 
Australia and Great Britain.  While providing a similar level of 
service, the U.S.  has the lowest number of employees relative to the 
workload.

Not content to rest on its laurels, however, the Passport Office is 
constantly seeking to improve its customer service.  Initiatives 
recently implemented include:

l) the addition of 150 passport acceptance offices to the 4,000 which 
already exist throughout the U.S.; 

2) intensified training for passport acceptance agents; 

3) creation of the position of Customer Service Manager for each of the 
regional passport agencies in March 1995; 

4) the enhancement of the Passport duty officer program, which provides 
emergency advice and assistance to U.S. citizens 24 hours a day, seven 
days a week.

This past year we have received a number of compliments from satisfied 
passport customers.  Excerpts from several of these follow:

"In today's environment, it is pleasing to see that the need of a 
customer is being evaluated and met.  Again, I commend (the director of 
the Boston passport agency) for his efforts in helping a customer."

"We wanted to commend your department for its remarkable efficiency and 
compassion in dealing with less-than-organized citizens and particularly 
to cite (staff members from the Washington and New York passport 
agencies) who went to considerable trouble--who phoned back from their 
homes, after hours, and who were smart, funny, able and efficient."

"I have never dealt with three more helpful people in trying to solve a 
constituent problem.  They all went above the call of duty during a 
crisis situation...I cannot thank them (staff of the Chicago passport 
agency) enough for their kindness and generosity in handling this case 
with the utmost of thoroughness."

TRAVEL INFORMATION SERVICES

YOU WILL RECEIVE TIMELY AND ACCURATE INFORMATION ON TRAVEL SAFETY AND 
CONDITIONS IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES 24 HOURS A DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

Our customers suggested in 1993-94 that we provide more service delivery 
options such as electronic access to information and forms.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs maintains three automated consular 
information systems:  an electronic bulletin board, a fax-on-demand and 
a Microlog (an automated telephone service).  Through these systems the 
public can access any of our consular information sheets (one on every 
country in the world), which are up-dated annually or as changes in the 
situation require.  All public announcements and travel warnings which 
provide the public information on potentially dangerous travel 
destinations are also on these systems.  These critical announcements 
are up-dated on the three systems as they are issued.

We conducted a follow-up survey of the customers for these services this 
year.  Between July 2 and 22, 1995, 11,721 people used these systems.  
313 of them responded to the survey.  94 per cent of those responding 
found the service helpful, while 70 per cent thought that the 
information provided was adequate or better.

In addition to our internal systems, St Olaf's College in Minnesota 
makes our consular travel information available on the Internet.  This 
year we also began coordinating with the Department's Bureau of Public 
Affairs to have our public information disseminated through the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) on the Internet.

Finally, we are working with the Bureau of Public Affairs to have 
consular information included on the World Wide Web.  We are also 
looking into the possibility of developing our own Web page devoted 
solely to consular information, and we are investigating the placement 
of forms as well as publications on the Web.  As technological advances 
improve the methods through which the public obtains information, the 
Bureau of Consular Affairs will continue to explore new ways of reaching 
our customers.

AMERICAN CITIZENS SERVICES

YOU WILL RECEIVE A TIMELY AND COURTEOUS RESPONSE TO YOUR REQUEST FOR 
AMERICAN CITIZEN SERVICES AND SERVICE WILL BE PROVIDED BY KNOWLEDGEABLE, 
PROFESSIONAL AND COURTEOUS PERSONNEL.

The range of services which the American public expects from the Bureau 
of Consular Services overseas range from the mundane, such as a notarial 
service, to the monumental, assistance in evacuation from a civil war.  
In each and every case, the affected citizen wants responsiveness from 
his or her representative abroad.

As outlined in the Overseas Citizens Services' customer service plan of 
last year, we identified three priority customer service areas:  one-
stop service; availability to the customer; and, a more efficient 
tracking system.  We believe we have been successful in meeting all 
three of these challenges.

Following a reorganization of the office, customers are served by one 
consular case officer whose expertise and knowledge of consular matters 
for a specific country generally the need for the customer to deal with 
more than one office.  Further, establishment of two additional offices, 
the Office of Children's Issues and the Office of Policy Review and 
Interagency Liaison, provides concentrated resources on certain consular 
matters which are long-term and/or require special sensitivity such as 
international child abduction/adoptions, federal benefits and regulatory 
review.

Customers continue to be offered emergency American citizen services 
around the clock.  We maintain office operations until 10:00 PM, thereby 
providing necessary consular assistance to people worldwide.  After-
hours assistance is also available through a well-established duty 
officer program.

Finally, outreach programs have provided additional exposure to other 
government and non-governmental groups.  Participation in such briefings 
are encouraged and well received.  We have found it to be beneficial to 
both parties involved.  The information we provide is accurate and 
pertinent to the group we address and diminishes false expectations on 
the part of our clients.

As part of our on-going development, office employees were asked to 
complete a survey on customer service.  The results of the survey were 
shared with professional consultants to help customize a customer 
service training session that was attended by all OCS employees.

By focusing attention on our employees, including managers, officers and 
support staff, we tried to re-emphasize the fact that we need the 
customers as much as they need us and that it is imperative to provide 
assistance in a knowledgeable, professional, timely and courteous 
manner.  Among other questions, we asked the employees which 
words/phrases/actions they believe a customer associates with good 
service.  This reflection helped employees understand that everyone is a 
customer at one time or another and the importance of treating a 
customer as you would like to be treated.

the survey generated employee interest in improving customer service and 
provided an excellent staging platform for customer service training.  
Objectives of the course included identifying the customer, effective 
and courteous information-gathering, appropriate response techniques, 
listening skills, recognizing the needs of the customer and managing 
stress.  The two day training course was administered by a masterful 
communications consultant and was well-received by the majority of the 
employees.

The American public has expressed its appreciation of the hard work done 
by our overseas Consulates and Embassies as well as our staff in 
Washington in numerous letters of commendation.  Some of their comments, 
which reflect the wide variety of American citizen services, follow:

"I was astounded by the efficiency, sympathy and kindness of the staff 
at the consulate (in Istanbul).  The monastery where I was staying had a 
number of guests from all over Europe at that time.  They too were 
amazed at the solicitude of the U.S. government for its citizens abroad.  
I was never more proud and relieved to be an American."

Most of my dealings with Embassy staff took place with (a consular 
officer in Belize). I found him to be caring, thoughtful, efficient and 
very competent in handling the myriad of tasks associated with the death 
of a U.S. citizen abroad...(his) actions were in marked contrast to that 
afforded by the British as reported to us by the parents of (a British 
national also killed)."

"...Vice Consul in Hong Kong, in the Consulate's American Citizens' 
Services Consular Section, just helped save my life and ensure the 
success, as much as one can, of my hip-replacement surgery here in Hong 
Kong."

"I wish to express my deepest gratitude to the State Department, the 
American Embassy in Jordan, and the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs for their heroic labor that will forever affect the lives of my 
daughter and myself.  Please continue efforts to help American women in 
similar situations; you were my only hope for survival..."

"We recently completed the adoption of a little Romanian boy, and have 
brought him home to the United States.  (The consular officer in 
Romania) helped us every step of the way, and without her compassion and 
professionalism it never would have happened."

VISA SERVICES

SERVICES TO PERSONS SEEKING VISAS TO VISIT OR RESIDE LEGALLY IN THE 
UNITED STATES WILL BE PROVIDED BY PROFESSIONAL, KNOWLEDGEABLE AND 
COURTEOUS PERSONNEL.

The National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, N.H., which processes 
immigrant visa petitions, has moved decision-making closer to the 
customer.  Immigrant visa petitioners in the United States can now place 
a domestic call to the NVC for a direct response rather than calling 
internationally and can send letter inquiries to a domestic address for 
quick turnaround.  When it first opened in April 1994, the NVC sent its 
initial notification of required documents to applicants in 26 days.  
Today it transmits this notification to 66 per cent of new cases within 
10 days or less.

The NVC has direct contact with its customers by telephone and written 
correspondence.  In its first year of operation, NVC has cut its mail 
response time from 26 to 1.5 days.  A similar success has been achieved 
in its telephone unit.  Today its telephone operators answer 5,680 calls 
in a week compared to 3,618 in 1994.  In addition, a Microlog system 
handles another 5,000 calls per week after hours and on week-ends as 
well as during working hours.

The American Consulate General in Hong Kong, a volunteer consular 
reinvention lab, conducted a survey of its visa customers following-up 
on one conducted in 1994.  While the participation rate was low in the 
visitors' visa section given the fact that it is difficult to complete a 
survey form while lined up for visa services, 93 per cent of those 
responding found the visa interviewers to be courteous.  The courtesy 
rating for translators was only 43 per cent, down from their rating in 
1994.  The survey also indicated some dissatisfaction with written 
instructions.  As a result of these two expressions of dissatisfaction, 
the staff in Hong Kong will be taking a close look at how the 
translators are doing their jobs and reviewing all signs and information 
sheets.

The response to the survey in the immigrant visa section was 
considerably more favorable.  The section was commended for courtesy in 
treatment of the applicants and speed in moving them through the 
laborious process.  90 per cent of those surveyed indicated that their 
cases were completed in less than two hours.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs took its message of customer service on 
the road this year in a Staff members of the Bureau participated in 
briefings for Congressional offices throughout the country.  During 
these briefings we provided Congressional staffers with valuable 
guidance on the services which the Bureau can provide to the traveling 
American public as well as to relations, friends and employees of 
Americans seeking visas to come to the United States.

CONCLUSION

During the past year the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs 
conducted three regional consular conferences, two in Latin and South 
America and one in the Middle East.  She also participated in a regional 
conference in Moscow for officers serving in Russia, the Newly-
Independent-States and the Baltic States.  During each of those 
conferences she took the opportunity to discuss, and reinforce the 
Bureau's commitment to, the customer service standards.

Our commitment to seeking new ways of meeting the needs of our millions 
of customers both here and abroad is strong.  Feedback which we have 
received from satisfied customers over the past year indicate that we 
are having considerable success.  Our service-oriented staff continues 
to be our greatest asset.  During this period of diminishing resources, 
however, we must pursue technological advances that can enhance our 
ability to be responsive to the American public in the most cost-
effective way possible.
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