SBA's District Offices' Customer Service

Date Issued: 
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Report Number: 
19-06

This report presents the results of our audit of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) district offices’ customer service. We initiated the audit in response to a congressional request about the perceived disparity in the effectiveness of SBA district offices. SBA’s district offices promote economic development, growth, and competitiveness within their geographic areas. District offices offer a variety of services to small businesses such as consulting, capital, and counseling programs that help customers start and grow their businesses. SBA has 68 district offices located throughout the United States and its territories. The Office of Field Operations (OFO) oversees district offices to ensure accountability and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars. OFO is responsible for the agencywide delivery of SBA’s products and services, which include training, technical assistance, and outreach. The audit objective was to determine whether OFO has a process in place to assess customer service effectiveness at district offices.

We determined SBA did not have an effective process in place to assess customer service. Specifically, SBA had not assessed customer feedback to evaluate the quality of customer service provided by district offices. Quality customer service is essential to SBA’s mission to deliver services that aid and protect the interest of small businesses. SBA cannot identify early opportunities to improve customer service or determine whether there are disparities in the Agency’s delivery of service if it does not implement a customer feedback process. Since SBA did not evaluate customer feedback, we conducted a survey of 217 SBA customers. The majority of customers provided positive feedback; however, 32 customers commented that district employees did not always understand their needs and provide them with guidance and support.

In addition, the ACR system, which tracks employees’ customer service activities, did not have sufficient controls to preserve the integrity of the district offices’ performance data. As a result, SBA cannot rely on the ACR data to measure progress toward meeting its strategic goals, or the effectiveness of its customer service efforts. Also, district directors did not effectively use ACR data to plan and strategize where to focus employees’ outreach activities. Consequently, employees may not be focusing their efforts in areas most in need of SBA resources, such as access to lenders and capital.

OIG made four recommendations to enhance the overall management of District Offices’ Customer Service. SBA’s planned actions should resolve the four recommendations.

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