TSP

John Grobe

“Call me, don’t be afraid, you can call me, Maybe it’s late but just call me, Tell me and I’ll be around.”

So sang Frankie Valli (aka Francesco Stephen Castelluccio) in one of the Four Seasons’ greatest hits. But was he singing about calling into a toll-free number (remember when they called them WATS lines?), or something else?

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He probably didn’t have toll-free numbers in mind when he recorded the song. We should be concerned, if not afraid, about calling (late, or anytime) to organizations such as Social Security, the Thrift Savings Plan, and the Office of Personnel Management. It’s important to be aware of the time we call.

The TSP, back in November, posted a notice on their “Page Watch” that warned of a high volume of calls on the ThriftLine. They warned of long waits, especially on Monday and Tuesday mornings. This is, of course, no surprise to those of us who worked at agencies that had call centers. I proudly spent 17 years of my federal career at the Internal Revenue Service, and I know that many readers worked for Social Security, OPM, the VA and other agencies that have an inbound call center (or centers).

All government agencies encourage you to contact them online, and that works well if your question is one of those that is “frequently asked”. Most websites have good FAQ pages that will answer basic questions. But, if we have a question that is more than basic, we may need to talk to a real person; that is, a “customer service representative”.

When is the best time to call and have a chance of promptly reaching a customer service representative? According to the TSP, Monday and Tuesday mornings are not that time. I think that those of us who worked for agencies that had a large customer service component would agree with that statement. After all, many of us think of our questions over the weekend – when we have time to focus on ourselves and our personal concerns, rather than on our jobs. So – we call for answers to our questions as soon as we can on the first workday of the week.

Actually, if we want our call answered quickly, we will wait until an afternoon – especially an afternoon later in the week. At that time, the rush of calls will have subsided somewhat, and we’ll have a better chance of reaching a customer service representative who is not harried by the number of incoming calls.

Here’s another tip if you’re calling in to a toll-free number for your answer. A lot of the front-line staff (especially in an agency or organization that has seasonal peaks in inquiries) is made up of relatively new employees who can answer the “50 most commonly asked questions”, but cannot get much deeper into the weeds. If you think the answer you received was erroneous, ask to be referred to a more experienced customer service representative; or ask for a written (or email) confirmation of their advice.

When it is time to make that call for information, do what you can to ensure that you get the best information possible.

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