Modernization

SSA expands customer-service systems

Shutterstock image (Dencg) : digital government concept.  

The Social Security Administration is moving forward with back-end tech and records systems to support the agency's long-term plan to modernize and improve customer service.

As SSA continues to invest in its online help and customer services, the Customer Engagement Tools record system will collect and store electronic communications between SSA personnel and beneficiaries with "my Social Security" accounts.

The database, which will be developed in-house, will also allow SSA's customer-facing systems quick access to user data.

A Social Security spokesperson told FCW the agency anticipates the system will be ready for use in fiscal year 2018, and that 10 percent of current my Social Security account holders will be able to access the CET system in its first release.

The information collected will be used to improve customer service, document and assess employee performance, review employee conduct and determine if disciplinary action may be necessary. Additionally, the collected communications can help determine skills gaps or training needs in SSA offices. 

In addition to the communications on SSA's online platforms, the CET system may store users' personal information -- specifically their name, Social Security number, birthdate, birthplace, parents' names and address. The database will also provide users with general information, such as local office location and information relating to the programs offered by SSA.

The system is the next phase of the SSA's broader program to modernize its customer service experience.

In the past year, SSA has rolled out various customer-service tools that enable electronic communications between online my Social Security account users and customer-support personnel including internet messaging and phone calls.  Customer assistance via live video and screen-sharing are among the next developments SSA plans for CET.

The modernization efforts with my Social Security accounts have encountered some bumps in the road.

After relaxing its initial security posture last August in response to complaints from users and members of Congress about difficulties logging into their accounts, in May SSA tweaked its two-factor authentication requirements for users to receive SSA benefits.

The agency has a $1.6 billion IT budget for fiscal year 2017 -- just under 13 percent of its overall appropriation.

According to a Federal Register notice, SSA is inviting public comment on the system until Sept. 5.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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