The federal contractor behind the years-long Thrift Savings Plan modernization project apologized for the troublesome transition, several months after the Converge update went live.
Accenture Federal Services (AFS) said despite initial challenges in the new recordkeeping program, there has been significant positive progress to resolve the many frustrations of TSP participants.
“I personally wanted to start with an apology,” said Elaine Beeman, AFS’ senior managing director and civilian portfolio lead, at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board’s Aug. 24 meeting. “In the early days of the program go-live, the call center experience was just not up to standards. It was not up to the standards of the FRTIB [and] it was not up to our standards. It was certainly not the experience that the participants and beneficiaries of the [TSP] deserve. The good news is, we’ve been working night and day to fix it.”
The update to TSP’s recordkeeper added several new features, including a mobile app, a live chat window, enhanced security features and a new interface for participants using the MyAccount platform.
“It wasn’t just a website change,” said AFS Managing Director Owen Davies at the board meeting. “We changed almost everything about TSP delivery when we went live. We changed the platform, so all the underlying technologies completely changed. We changed the processes [and] the way we actually go about delivering the specifics of the plans. We changed all the people who deliver those processes and operate those platforms. It was a wholesale change.”
When the major update, years in the making, went live on June 1, TSP participants experienced a vast range of challenges and frustrations. Many participants still continue to share their concerns and frustrations with Federal News Network.
At the Aug. 24 board meeting, AFS representatives shared details on what exactly went wrong, which initial challenges have subsided and what further improvements are coming to the new system.
Prior to the go-live date, Davies said AFS anticipated the volume of calls to ThriftLine, TSP’s customer service center, would be about twice as high as FRTIB’s previous call record. To prepare for the update, AFS added more call center staff based on that prediction. But when the update launched, the call center received six times the previous call record.
“We were just not prepared for that. We weren’t staffed for it. And as a result, we had the really unfortunate, horrible experience for participants,” Davies said.
Another decision Davies said caused a lot of frustration for TSP participants was requiring all users to set up a new login for MyAccount.
“We made that process really cumbersome, it was very hard for a vast number of users,” Davies said. “We made it overly complex. We over-indexed on some of the protection things. Those two [factors] in combination created a really bad situation, and everybody felt it.”
AFS was able to remediate a lot of the initial issues within the first couple of weeks, Davies said, which helped relieve some of the pressure that participants felt. But, he added, by that time much of the damage was already done. The blackout period prior to the launch, as well as high uncertainty in the stock market, also contributed to the frustrations from participants.
“Since then, we’ve seen really good performance. People have been able to claim their accounts and do it in a protected way,” he said.
Currently, the average call wait time for customer service is 24 seconds, down from two hours on June 1. More than two million participants have set up new accounts. ThriftLine is receiving roughly 21,000 calls per day, and that number is trending downward. Satisfaction with customer service is at 82%.
AFS is still working to reach more goals for TSP, Davies said. For one, he said AFS wants to bring customer satisfaction up to 90%. And, despite a large move to participants’ use of digital services, now at 85%, the goal is to raise that even higher, by getting more participants to download the mobile app and use self-service help options, like the live chat window and the new virtual assistant, AVA. AFS also plans to conduct refresher training courses for call center staff, to try to better help those who call for assistance.
“This program is terribly important to us,” Beeman said. “It’s an imperative to us to get this right. So we welcome an ongoing dialogue with [the board] and ongoing transparency into what we’re doing.”