Federal agencies will be joining the ranks of beauty salons, taco stands and other services reviewed on Yelp, and the U.S. government says it will take the online ratings into account to improve what the government calls " customer satisfaction."
Under a deal with Yelp, the government will officially recognize the public's star ratings on its federal agencies, from the Transportation Security Administration to national parks.
Frustrated travelers have already been turning to the popular website to vent about long, slow-moving airport security lines and what some have said are intrusive body scans. Now the public will be able to do it in real time, and the government says it will respond to the comments and use the feedback to improve. People can, among other things, rate bathrooms at national parks, review their experiences with the Internal Revenue Service, or assess the efficiency of the local post office.
"In some ways, it augments our democracy," said Luther Lowe, Yelp's vice president of public policy. He said the platform could shine the light on what does and doesn't work in the federal government, just as it directs people to the yummiest Indian restaurant in town or the best nail salon.
The General Services Administration made the announcement on digitalgov.gov in a page that resembled a typical Yelp page with the title "Best Public Services and Government in Washington, D.C." It said: "Adding customer satisfaction ratings and reviews to public services just got easier now that Yelp offers a terms of service for official government use."
Mr. Lowe said there is no need for TSA agents or other federal officials to worry: Positive reviews already outweigh negative comments on Yelp for businesses, and he doesn't expect that will change with people reviewing federal agencies. It will still take weeks before that area of Yelp's site is up and running.
Andy Stoltzfus, vice president of Voce Connect, a digital-consulting firm, said the deal isn't what is expected of a massive federal government. "It's very inspiring to see them adapting to the digital age, " he said.
Its success in revamping the image of the stodgy, unresponsive federal bureaucrat will hinge on pointing out how the feedback has specifically changed public services for the better, Mr. Stoltzfus said.
Per the government's terms, advertisements will be removed from official government pages to prevent perceived endorsements.