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December 13, 1999

Cathy Noe/ John Trollinger/Carolyn Cheezum

For Immediate Release

410-965-8904 FAX 410-966-9973

Social Security Online


News Release

Social Security Administration
Earns High Marks in American
Customer Satisfaction
Index Survey

The University of Michigan announced today that the Social Security Administration (SSA) received an 82 in the most recent American Customer Satisfaction Index Survey (ACSI). This score is one of the highest earned by participating Federal government agencies and 10 points higher than the comparable private sector index.

The survey focused on SSA customers who are receiving retirement benefits, the agency's largest customer base serving 27.6 million beneficiaries. According to survey results, Social Security customers rated SSA personnel as courteous and professional, giving SSA an 86 for both Customer Service and Perceived Quality. Survey respondents gave SSA a 94 for Monthly Benefits citing the timeliness in which SSA sends benefit payments. According to ACSI, this score is a remarkable achievement for SSA as few ACSI scores reach the high 80s, much less the 90s.

"These scores reflect the hard work and dedication of Social Security Administration employees who put customer service first every day," said Kenneth S. Apfel, Commissioner of Social Security. "We will use this survey to build on the work we do well and improve the areas where our customers say we can do a better job."

While SSA scored an 86 for Customer Service, some customers would like SSA to make its employees even more accessible and easier to reach than they are today. In addition, beneficiaries felt that the information provided by SSA sometimes could be clearer and more relevant. "We are listening to what our customers are telling us and we have begun several initiatives to improve in these areas," commented Commissioner Apfel.

Since Vice President Gore launched his reinvention initiatives, SSA has worked diligently to improve the quality of its customer service. The agency's goal is to make doing business with the Social Security Administration an easy, pleasant experience for the over 100 million people who visit its offices or call the 800-number each year.

SSA has expanded 800-number offerings by adding features such as: multiple automated options for convenience and faster access to agency services; direct links to bilingual agents for non-English speaking customers; "next available agent" call routing for faster, more efficient access; and "immediate claims taking" for filing retirement and survivors claims over the phone.

Plain language has become the standard for recent SSA publications such as the Social Security Statement and the annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment notice which have been streamlined and reworked to make the information easier to read and more understandable to those who receive them. SSA employees have been trained to write all communications with the public in a reader-friendly format.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is the only uniform, cross-industry measure of the quality of goods and services available in the United States. The ACSI is a trend measure and a benchmark for companies, industries and economic sectors of the household consumer economy. It is predictive of both companies' financial returns and national economic performance. The ACSI is produced through a partnership among the University of Michigan Business School, the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and Arthur Andersen and funded in part by annual fees paid by companies that receive detailed information on their own industries.

"At the Social Security Administration we believe that in order to truly serve our customers well, we must ask them how they want service delivered and encourage them to tell us how well we serve them today," stated Commissioner Apfel. "This survey is an important evaluation tool for our agency. Next year, the Social Security Administration plans to expand the survey to include disability and survivors beneficiaries."


NOTE TO CORRESPONDENTS: A fact sheet showing specifics regarding the ratings is available by clicking here.


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410-965-8904 FAX 410-966-9973

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