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This Month in News Digest


Government e-Services Score Well With Customers


ISO Issues ISO 9001:2000 Publicity Guidelines


Push for Baldrige Nonprofit Category Continues


IndySoft Acquires Norfox Corp.


Task Force Discusses Partnerships Between Accreditation and Certification Bodies



Government e-Services Score Well With Customers

Although Americans have low expectations of the federal government’s offerings, they’re generally satisfied with individual services, according to a special report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Among the dozens of agencies and departments measured were the Social Security Administration, the National Weather Service, the U.S. Mint, the Internal Revenue Service, and several agencies’ Web sites and online services.

The agencies registered an average score of 70.9 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale. This trails the national ACSI score of 73.8. Courtesy and professionalism rate highly, in the 80-to-82 point range, among the agencies measured. Expectations are low--an average of 68 compared to 78 in the private sector. Timeliness of service received a score of 70 and ease of doing business earned a 74. Trust in government received a 72.

“In general, people who actually interact with the government are reasonably satisfied,” says Claes Fornell, who leads the ACSI. “There are some striking contrasts when you get citizens to assess their actual experience with government as opposed to just general attitudes. And there’s evidence that interaction improves trust, which is good for democracy.”

Retirement benefit recipients, Veterans Administration clients and users of the Federal Consumer Information Center are among the most satisfied constituents of large-volume agencies. Benefit recipients of the Social Security Agency and inpatients at VA medical centers are satisfied, both ranking 81. VA outpatients, users of the VA toll-free line, and those who interact with the Pueblo, Colorado, Consumer Information Center all registered satisfaction levels of 80.

The highest-scoring agency is the U.S. Mint, with 89. The report indicated that the measured audience segment is coin collectors, who show high satisfaction with product offerings, quality and service.

The Internal Revenue Service rates well among e-filers, earning a 77. The overall IRS score of 63 for nonbusiness taxpayers has been rising during the five years the ACSI has been measuring government, largely because of the increasing number of e-filers. The IRS does less well among businesses, getting a 60 from small businesses and a 53 from large and midsized businesses.

“The IRS has an uphill battle on satisfaction,” says Fornell. “Very few are going to be satisfied to pay taxes. But their improvement shows that it’s possible for even tax collectors to earn the approval and satisfaction of citizens.”

The findings also include a separate report on e-government, which shows that some online services meet or surpass private-sector performance while others are in less-advanced stages of development. The e-government ratings are calculated using the ACSI methodology through a special application developed by online satisfaction firm ForeSee Results and managed by the Treasury Department’s Federal Consulting Group.

“E-government is turning a corner that the commercial Internet turned a couple years ago,” says ForeSee Results CEO Larry Freed. “Some agencies are surpassing the private sector in terms of satisfaction, and they’re finding that citizens sometimes prefer government sites even when there’s a commercial option. Health sites we measure are doing very well--partly because they’re mastering private-sector approaches, but more because they’re making themselves customer-driven, rather than bureaucracy-driven, and because people trust the government to give them reliable information and no spam.”

The ACSI is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. To learn more, visit www.theacsi.org.

ISO Issues ISO 9001:2000 Publicity Guidelines

The International Organization for Standardization has issued new guidelines for publicizing registration to the ISO 9001:2000 quality management system and ISO 14001 environmental management system standards.

The guidelines are outlined in “Publicizing your ISO 9001:2000 or ISO 14001 certification.” They’re intended to help organizations apply good practices when publicizing, communicating and promoting their registration to stakeholders, including staff, customers, business partners and the general public.

In December 2003, the deadline passed for organizations to transition from the 1994 versions of ISO 9001, 9002 and 9003 to ISO 9001:2000. Registration to the older version is no longer recognized as valid by national accreditation bodies that make up the International Accreditation Forum.

ISO’s guidelines insist upon reference to the full designation of ISO 9001:2000--not “ISO 9001”--in order to avoid the possibility of confusion between the valid and invalid versions.

Among traps that ISO’s guidelines help registered organizations avoid are the misuse of ISO’s logo and name in connection with registration. ISO itself neither audits organizations nor issues ISO 9001:2000 or ISO 14001 certificates. This task is carried out independently by more than 750 certification bodies around the world.

The guidelines also state: “ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001 give generic requirements for management systems, not requirements for specific products or services. ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001 marks of conformity are not to be displayed on products, on product labels, on product packaging or in any way that may be interpreted as denoting product conformity.”

ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden commented: “ISO first published such guidelines in 1993, and they’ve been periodically updated since then to assist users. We know that we’re meeting a market need because, for example, a draft of the latest version posted on ISO’s Web site attracted 44,000 visitors within 21 weeks. ISO not only produces useful standards; it also facilitates their use.”

The guidelines are available as a free download from ISO’s Web site, www.iso.org.


Push for Baldrige Nonprofit Category Continues

Due to a large amount of legislation being pushed through Congress at the end of 2003, the initiative to include nonprofit organizations in the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program has been slated for approval during the beginning of 2004.

According to Amy Kimball, the American Society for Quality’s Washington, D.C., representative, congressional support for H.R. 3389, the Baldrige expansion bill recently introduced by representatives Brad Miller (D-NC) and Melissa Hart (R-PA), continues to grow significantly.

Original plans by Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) were slated to bypass the normal committee procedures and bring the bill directly to the House of Representatives for a vote under a “suspension of rules,” a process generally reserved for noncontroversial matters. However, Kimball states: “With the immense crush of last-minute legislation required before the first session could end, the bill wasn’t able to be placed on the suspension calendar before Congress finished most matters for the year.”

Work in the Senate has put the bill in a good position to move as the House passes it. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) are expected to agree to pass H.R. 3389 without delay this year.

Letters from nonprofit organizations that have won state awards were delivered to supporting senators in December 2003. Other nonprofit organizations with quality experience are encouraged to write their representatives.

For more information about the ASQ, visit www.asq.org. To learn more about the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program, visit www.baldrige.nist.gov.

IndySoft Acquires Norfox Corp.

IndySoft Corp., a developer of Gage InSite metrology and manufacturing software, has acquired Norfox Corp.’s assets, including name, customer base and all product lines, including Visual LabMate, LabMate 3.5 and accessory modules.

“We intend to fully support and enhance the LabMate product line,” says Leon Price, CEO of IndySoft. “Users of the software will be able to expand their licensing and purchase newer versions of the software. They will also be able to seamlessly upgrade to IndySoft’s Gage InSite Enterprise platform.”

Users of LabMate products will be contacted to discuss their individual requirements. For more information, visit www.indysoft.com.

Task Force Discusses Partnerships Between
Accreditation and Certification Bodies

A task force of the International Accreditation Forum recently met to develop recommendations to improve satisfaction among customers of services provided by the IAF and its member accreditation bodes in response to results of an IAF survey.

The task force agreed that accreditation bodies and certification/registration bodies need to work in partnership to ensure the integrity of accredited registration and to deliver effective and valued services to the end-user.

IAF’s global customer satisfaction survey gathered feedback from certification/registration body customers of accreditation body members of the IAF. Survey results were reviewed by the IAF general assembly during its September 2003 plenary meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, and the IAF Executive Committee appointed the task force to consider the findings, determine the areas of greatest opportunity for improvement and present an action plan.

The task force identified five areas for improvement, stating that certification/registration and accreditation bodies should work together to:

Complete the accreditation procedure in a timely manner.

Respond quickly to requests for extension of scope.

Have open, clear communications with customers.

Treat all customers as valued.

Provide services that are a good value for the money.

In a two-day meeting, the task force reviewed the survey results and confirmed the findings on the basis of regional research results known to task force members, as well as direct customer feedback. Task force members reviewed best practices among accreditation bodies and certification/registration bodies, including initiatives already underway.

The recommendations proposed by the team included some directed specifically at IAF and others directed at IAF member accreditation bodies. The task force considered such topics as the need to more clearly define roles and responsibilities within accreditation and certification processes and to clarify expectations of all involved.

Task force members include representatives of accreditation bodies and certification/registration bodies in the Americas, Europe and Asia. An observer from the IAF Executive Committee also participated in the task force.

The IAF is the world association of conformity assessment accreditation bodies and other bodies interested in conformity assessment. Its primary function is to develop a single worldwide program of conformity assessment which reduces risk for businesses and their customers by assuring them that accredited certificates may be relied upon.

To learn more, visit www.iaf.nu.