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  4. We Hear You: How the Public Engages with DHS

We Hear You: How the Public Engages with DHS

Release Date: April 28, 2023

In 2017, Congress directed DHS to form a working group to assess how the Department’s components receive, review, and respond to complaints and feedback submitted by the public. In response, the Department’s Office of Partnership and Engagement (OPE) chartered the Public Complaint and Feedback System (PCFS) Working Group in 2021 - focused on bringing together all DHS Components and Offices with public complaint and feedback systems to share best practices and better collaborate on establishing processes and metrics around customer complaints and feedback. The OPE Assistant Secretary is a standing chair with a rotating co-chair appointed (currently the Customer Experience Directorate (CXD)) every 2 years.

Current members include:

  • Office of Partnership and Engagement
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman (OIDO)
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties (CRCL)
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CISOMB)
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • Customer Experience Directorate (CXD)

Direct Customer Feedback? Already Available!

DHS interacts with millions of people each day across a diverse set of mission spaces, sometimes interacting with people in their most vulnerable moments. This creates the opportunity for tons of customer feedback, and in some cases complaints, that provide the Department with a treasure trove of data about how our services and policies are affecting people and how we can improve them. It is likely that your work affects the public in some way, and thus it’s vital to listen to what they think.

Now to bust a few myths:

  • All feedback is negative - False!
    • Feedback can be negative (negative reviews or complaints) but much of it can be positive (just think about all the 5-star Yelp reviews where people want to share their positive experiences). Both are valuable!
  • Negative feedback means my work is not valuable or good quality - False!
    • Negative feedback or complaints should not be taken personally. They are not a reflection on the value or quality of your work - just a reflection of a people’s experiences, which many times include a wide scope of factors.
  • Customers often aren't experts on our work, so their feedback isn’t helpful to improving things - False!
    • Customers ARE the experts of their own experiences and lives, and the services we provide are ultimately for them to interact with. They may not be experts in your field, but they are the only ones who can tell us how our services affect them and how useful, helpful, or impactful they are.

Having a lot of feedback is great, but fully capitalizing on all this information and responding to the needs of the public in a coherent and effective way takes coordination. The PCFS Working Group is actively working to make it easier for the public to provide feedback, and they are coordinating to establish common metrics and practices for how we collect, define, and analyze that information - which we can ALL use to better serve the public and carry out our mission.

If You Don't Have Your Own, Maybe You Can Collect It!

Better policies, programs, and services start with understanding - understanding who your customers are and what their experiences are - and the easiest way to start learning more about your customers is by listening to what they say. You can learn more about the ways the public can currently contact DHS and see public reports on the data collected. Next step, use the data available! Also, look at the current sources of feedback and use it to identify gaps and engage in qualitative research aimed at filling those gaps. If feedback does not exist for your services or interactions, think about creating ways for your customers to provide it. It is possible that you might be the best positioned person to collect feedback directly, or maybe you can empower others who interact with the public or do CX work! You can also look at ways to leverage existing feedback collection tools and authorities. The goal is to find ways to focus your efforts on improving the services you provide or the decisions you make based on what you hear the public is saying - at the very least it can serve as a guide for further research and innovation.

Last Updated: 05/01/2023
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