What Went Wrong With the TSP Website Migration?

The latest monthly TSP meeting provided important updates on the problems that plagued the launch of the new TSP website.

The latest monthly meeting about the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) offered answers as to what went wrong with the launch of the new TSP website in June. It also provided details about how the TSP participant experience has improved since the migration took place.

What Exactly Was Done With the New TSP Website Rollout?

It’s important to note that the changes to the TSP website launched in June were more than just a website refresh and included an overhaul of almost everything behind the TSP’s platform and its underlying technology. The premise behind the changes was to ensure that the TSP system was positioned for future changes.

It included a replacement of FRTIB’s core record-keeping system, re-platforming the TSP customer service contact center technology, re-platforming of “My Account” and the TSP Agency/Payroll portal, and the introduction of more online services, features, and security standards.

Update on TSP Website Problems

Accenture Federal Services (AFS) provided a report to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB), the agency which oversees the operation of the TSP, about the operation of the TSP website since the June rollout of the new platform and features.

AFS apologized to the TSP board members and plan participants and admitted that the problems with the rollout tarnished the TSP brand. AFS also said it was not up to their standards and that TSP participants did not deserve the problems they experienced.

What Went Wrong?

That is the question that TSP participants probably want to know most. As Owen Davies, Client Account Lead at AFS explained to the FRTIB board members, it was primarily a result of two things:

  1. Unexpectedly high call volume – AFS planned for call volumes to the TSP’s customer support line that were two times greater than the FRTIB’s previous highest call volume day, but the volume of calls that ended up coming in were six times greater.
  2. New account setup process – out of a “mindset for security,” all TSP participants were required to set up a new online account to prevent fraud, but this process “was cumbersome, contained previously undetected errors, and led to unexpected account access issues.”

Davies said that all of their past experience and data told them that they would be at an “acceptable volume” of calls with the 2X assumption and within their ability to handle them with the staff they had. But, as he put it very succinctly, “we got it wrong.” The volume of calls that ended up coming in was so unexpectedly high that the company lacked the staff to handle it.

As to the new online account set up process, AFS said that this was done out of a “mindset for security and fraud prevention,” explaining that inheriting user credentials from another platform is ripe for security problems. However, the company said that the process was overly complex and cumbersome which just added fuel to the fire with the already high call center volumes when many users got befuddled by the process and had to call customer support for help with it.

The good news, however, is that the company said they began working on these two things immediately and it was resolved within two weeks, although as Davies admitted, by then the “damage had been done.”

Other Factors

There were some other contributing factors that helped create a perfect storm which further added to the poor performance with the new website rollout:

  • Extended blackout period – prior to the launch of the new TSP website, TSP participants couldn’t make transactions on their accounts, so this led to pent-up demand
  • Stock market conditions – this likely led to an increased interest among TSP participants to pay closer attention to their accounts
  • New design – everything about the user experience was changed, so this led to confusion among TSP participants about how to perform actions or find things within the new site layout
  • Long wait times on hold – people who called the customer support number obviously were on hold for a long time, so they would get frustrated, hang up, and then call back which had the net effect of further increasing call volumes

Current TSP Website Performance

Despite the problems, the good news is that the problems have improved considerably. These are some of the latest performance metrics:

  • 2.08 million TSP participants have set up their online accounts
  • Call volume is down to about 21,000 calls per day, still higher than average but it is expected to continue to drop
  • Average hold time is down to 24 seconds
  • Average call duration is just under 11 minutes
  • Customer satisfaction on the phone is up to 82%; goal is 90% and AFS is still working to achieve this
  • 81% of calls are answered in less than 20 seconds; goal is 80% and AFS feels confident about being able to maintain this

A couple of other interesting metrics to note are that about 200,000 TSP account logins occur each day, there have been over 305,000 downloads of the new TSP mobile app since it launched, and there have been 1,678 mutual fund window accounts funded so far.

What’s Next?

These are future improvements that AFS is working on now:

  • Enhancing online self-service for installments, withdrawals, and loans
  • Increasing the historical information available to participants through My Account
  • Expanding virtual assistant (AVA) functionality to provide easy access to account information
  • Improving the “My Account” access to status of items in progress and participant customized actions
  • Focusing on Interactive Voice Response (IVR) navigation to get participants to the right agent the first time
  • Continuing additional refresher training for existing call center agents – they are currently overstaffed on purpose to focus on customer service
  • Promoting the expanded use of the online channels
  • Addressing operational items that are impacting participant services

The bottom line is that according to the information presented at the monthly TSP meeting, federal employees and retirees who use the TSP should continue to have a better experience with interacting with their online accounts and calling customer service going forward.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.