GSA forecasts modest increase in sales amid soul-searching

But GSA officials said the agency must fix its customer care problems before it sees dramatic improvements in the financial bottom line

The General Services Administration forecasts a modest improvement in its financial picture in fiscal 2007, citing a small increase in multiple-award schedule contract sales so far this year. But GSA officials who addressed a group of industry and government officials earlier this month said the agency must fix its customer care problems before it sees dramatic improvements in the financial bottom line.

“We have been studying our bellybutton,” said Paul McDermott, assistant regional administrator of GSA’s National Capital Region.

McDermott was joined by other GSA executives who said the agency knows what its problems are and how to fix them. Employees must answer the phone when people call GSA instead of redirecting them to voice mail. Employees must return e-mail inquiries.

The new Federal Acquisition Service must offer seamless service and avoid slipping back to pre-FAS service levels when the Federal Technology Service and Federal Supply Service were separate organizations.

Paul Tennessee, deputy assistant commissioner of FAS’ marketing office, offered a prescription for a new level of customer care. “You hear them. You listen to them. You do whatever it takes to satisfy their needs,” he said.

Amid talk of repairing relationships with customers, GSA executives forecast a modest 4 percent, or $348 million, revenue increase in fiscal 2008. Multiple-award schedule contract sales are up 2 percent since the beginning of fiscal 2007, said Barney Brasseux, acting deputy FAS commissioner.

FAS officials expect stable revenue for fiscal 2007 and 2008 after a sharp sales decline in fiscal 2006. GSA’s Annual Performance and Accountability Report for fiscal 2006 shows net revenue from its Information Technology Fund dropped $100 million compared with the previous year’s revenue. The fund’s business volume also declined as GSA’s largest customers took their business elsewhere. FAS’ network services revenue dropped $37 million to $1.21 billion in fiscal 2006.

GSA’s proposed fiscal 2008 budget is based on an assessment of past business performance and realistic assumptions about the future, according to budget documents. The agency’s revenue estimates reflect its continuing efforts to build the new FAS organization and the results from its reviews of all of product and service offerings of the legacy services that make up FAS.

After listening to the speeches at the industry event, which was sponsored by the Coalition for Government Procurement, several government contracting officers said high-level strategies to improve customer service can only do so much. They said GSA’s leaders must carry their message deep inside the agency to the procurement employees who meet face to face with frustrated customers.

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