Social security enjoys broad customer satisfaction as it revises the telephone system
Social security enjoys broad customer satisfaction as it revises the telephone system

Social security enjoys broad customer satisfaction as it revises the telephone system

Despite being uprooted at the root of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Social Security Administration generally saw positive reports of customer satisfaction with their telephone service, even with employees referred to teleworking.

Inspector General’s Office published his latest review of the Social Security Administration’s telephone services across its network of 1,193 field offices and its central hotline focusing on customer service in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The analysis includes reviews of over 151 million calls to SSA on the national 800 number line and directly to field offices, and the analysis looked at customer service results from October 2019 to March 2020 and compared them with the same data from April to September 2020.

By performing the performance review documented by the report, SSA hired a private contractor to conduct about 10,000 random customer surveys, with preliminary results indicating “overall customer satisfaction with service between 68 and 76 percent.”

The availability of personal employees to receive incoming calls varied drastically between the two periods as the pandemic forced federal employees to telecommute. In March 2020, SSA switched to a remote workplace with exceptions for special circumstances.

Report writers looked at various service metrics, including the number of interrupted calls, the speed of answered calls, the amount of calls received “busy” messages, and the number of calls interrupted while waiting in a queue.

The detailed review was originally requested in July by the rep. John Larson, D-Conn., Chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, along with rep. Tom Reed, R-Ill., Who requested a survey of customer service within the SSA during the pandemic.

In a rough comparison with other federal agencies, the SAA performed quite well and generally reported better customer call service according to the report’s measurements.

While receiving the highest number of calls in fiscal year 2020, the report also found that 42 percent of them were answered by employees instead of an automated service and experienced shorter waiting times on average.

During 2020, the report noted that SSA had a higher frequency of employee-answered calls than other departments such as the Department of Labor, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Homeland Security Department’s Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the United States Postal Service.

Waiting times also fell, with the largest drop seen in April 2020 with an average waiting time of 1.2 minutes, down from 2.7 minutes recorded in March 2020. This trend continued throughout the pandemic, but saw small increases with the latest data from September 2020 shows an average waiting time of 1.9 minutes for callers trying to reach SSA.

Improving telephone service has been a big part of SSA’s modernization plan. Launched before the pandemic, the agency’s Next Generation Telephony Project aims to transform the national service line and field office phone numbers into a single, coherent system to speed up call routing.

During May 2021, SSA attempted an initial implementation of this new system, but was unable to log on due to “capacity constraints.” The Agency again tried to roll out the unified call platform, but was again derailed.

Michelle Anderson, Assistant Auditor General for Auditing, confirmed that SSA will continue to combine teleworking with a more streamlined communications service.

“As part of the new system, SSA plans to improve the automated capabilities of the national 800 number with better voice recognition, which will improve the calling experience and increase the number of calls handled by these automated services,” she wrote in the report.

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