Retirement & Financial Planning Report

A new inspector general report credits OPM with making some improvements in services to retirees—a function for which OPM has been much criticized for years, including previously by the IG itself—although it found that some customer service problems remain.

The report followed up on a 2016 audit finding that annuitants using OPM’s toll-free number were encountering busy signals as well as long wait times when attempting to contact customer service and that OPM was not providing timely responses to customer inquiries.

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The IG said that since then, OPM’s Retirement Services branch “has made a number of enhancements to its customer service function” including several improvements in providing timely responses to annuitants’ inquiries such as “addressing the backlog of written inquiries with the development of two new processes, which have helped to reduce the written correspondence backlog” by three-fifths.

OPM also has improved in annuitants’ access to its customer service via a toll-free number, the report said, including through hiring some 63 additional staff. That reduced the average wait time from about 16 to about 9 minutes.

“However, annuitants are still having trouble reaching a customer service specialist as there is still a large number of abandoned calls and busy signals,” it added.

It cited a 2018 OPM customer satisfaction survey finding 19 percent of respondents reported making calls that never were answered, down by just two points from 2015, while 8 percent said they were transferred multiple times, also down by two points.

Further, the IG said that to test the responsiveness of legal administrative specialists to questions from retirees, it left voicemails with 44 of them. However, only 13 of them responded to the voicemails. Auditors added that at least “we did not find any full voicemail boxes, as reported in our 2016 evaluation report.”

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