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Tuesday June 13, 2000

Catherine Noe, Press Officer

For Immediate Release

410-965-8904 FAX 410-966-9973

Social Security Administration


Social Security Administration to Partner with CommerceNet
to Conduct In-house Laboratory Testing of New Internet Technologies

William A. Halter, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security announced today that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is partnering with CommerceNet, a nonprofit consortium, to test a variety of Internet technologies to determine if they can be used by the agency to enhance customer service. SSA envisions utilizing Internet services that would allow customers to interact with an agency representative while they are online with SSA doing various business applications such as filing an online claim for monthly benefits. Several of these Internet services are currently being employed in the private sector. The project is considered "proof-of-concept" because it will be conducted in a controlled laboratory environment at SSA and will not use real customers during the testing.

"The Internet has tremendous potential to expand and improve customer service at the Social Security Administration," said Deputy Commissioner Halter. "But before we move forward, we must first test these technologies to determine if they are practicable and to ensure that they can be adapted to meet SSA's strict standards for protecting customer privacy."

Through the years, the Social Security Administration has earned a reputation for providing superior service to its customers. To meet its customer service goals, the agency has adapted its business practices to meet the changing needs of the people it serves and has heavily utilized technology in the process. SSA has moved from a largely paper environment to a technologically driven workplace with computers on the desk of every employee and teleservice centers that handle nearly 60 million phone calls a year.

Meeting the customer service needs of the 76 million-strong baby boom generation, will be a daunting, but doable, challenge for SSA. Baby boomers are more technologically savvy than any generation before them and they will expect to receive state-of-the-art service. To expand its service capabilities and keep pace with customer demand, SSA must improve existing technology, utilize new technologies such as those used over the Internet and integrate the old and the new technologies. The partnership with CommerceNet will help SSA determine the viability of several of these customer service options.

CommerceNet will bring together a number of member companies to work with SSA. The companies will test a variety of technologies in a tightly controlled lab under SSA's roof and begin to integrate various methods of providing customer service such as the telephone and the Internet. This integration is called channel convergence. The proof-of-concept will run for approximately three months. Current industry participants are: Cosmocom, Siebel Systems, Inc., Nortel Networks, BroadVision, Unisys, Sideware, IBM, Sybase, SETECS, and Microsoft, Access Gear, Cisco Systems, Clarify, Oracle, and Quintas.

Some of the technologies to be tested include:

  • Instant messaging which will provide the customer with the ability to type questions and receive an immediate typed response from a SSA customer service representative.
  • Secure email that will provide the customer with the capability of sending and receiving personal information from their Social Security records via e-mail in such a way that it is private and not readable by outside parties.
  • Voice over the Internet, which will allow the customer to have a phone conversation with a SSA representative while they are conducting a transaction on the SSA web-site.
  • Software which would allow SSA customer service representatives to better manage and aggregate customer information whether it be through the Internet, telephone, or field office to enable SSA to provide better customer service.

"By working with CommerceNet, we can create a unique working environment to develop and test service options for our customers," commented Deputy Commissioner Halter. "We appreciate the opportunity to work with CommerceNet and its member organizations and we are looking forward to future public/ private sector technological collaborations to improve public service."

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SSA Press Office 4-H-9 West High Rise. 6401 Security Blvd. Baltimore, MD 21235
410-965-8904 FAX 410-966-9973

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