Office of Workers' Compensation Programs:

Goals and Monitoring Are Needed to Further Improve Customer Communications

GAO-01-72T: Published: Oct 3, 2000. Publicly Released: Oct 3, 2000.

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This testimony discusses the Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP). GAO reviewed how OWCP communicates with injured federal workers, agencies who employ these persons, and medical and other service providers who treat them. To evaluate OWCP's system, GAO used criteria suggested by the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR). This report summarizes GAO's findings on NPR's study of private sector practices for providing telephone customer service, which included: (1) setting challenging goals for meeting callers' needs for timely and accurate information; (2) collecting credible performance data to measure progress in attaining those goals; and (3) improving telephone service by using the performance data and results to periodic surveys of customers and stakeholders to determine levels of satisfaction. GAO found that OWCP provided consistent customer service regardless of where injured workers live. GAO made 2,400 telephone calls to OWCP's 12 district offices. To compare OWCP's goals and practices for telephone communication with those of model organizations, GAO surveyed three agencies that have won awards for their telephone communication practices: the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs' Benefits Administration, and Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should require the Director of OWCP to establish goals for all important areas of OWCP's telephone and written communications with injured workers and other customers and revise as appropriate existing goals to better ensure that customers' needs for accurate and timely information are met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Employment Standards Administration: Office of Workers' Compensation Programs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OWCP fielded a union/management steering committee which identified preliminary "transitional" goals for the first year of communications improvements. In addition, the agency adopted interim goals in the area of access to district offices (reduced busy signals and hold times, voice mail availiability during business hours in all offices). OWCP also established a national toll-free live Call Center and a toll-free interactive Voice Response system by the target date of June 25, 2001. In addition, a telephone customer satisfaction baseline goal is being established through a call-back survey. each office will set goals for improvement in quality of response against its own baseline. A written survey will be used to establish a national baseline.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should require the Director of OWCP to collect credible performance data on progress toward these goals, including timely periodic surveys of injured workers', medical providers', and agencies' satisfaction with OWCP's services and surveys of OWCP employees to gauge their job satisfaction and to gather ideas on how to improve services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Employment Standards Administration: Office of Workers' Compensation Programs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In FY 2001, OWCP began the installation of PBX switches in most of its district Offices which, when complete, will permit data to be collected on caller volume, busy signals, hold times, and call abandonment for the district offices with quarterly reporting to begin in the third quarter. On June 25, 2001, a toll-free Call Center to handle callers seeking basic information was opened, and extensive performance data on call abandonment, hold times, and quality of responses are reported by the contractor. A contractor is conducting a "call back" survey of claimant callers who have left messages with OPCP's district offices. It will provide a baseline measurement for satisfaction with access and timeliness, and quality of telephone service for each FEC district office.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should require the Director of OWCP to use these performance data and survey results to identify areas needing improvement and to develop strategies for achieving those improvements, including new and revised goals where appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor: Employment Standards Administration: Office of Workers' Compensation Programs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FY 2001 Performance Agreements for Regional Directors include the requirement to provide an annual communications plan for the FEC offices in each region, with strategies for improving performance against the new goals. The Operational Plan and Strategic Plan goal setting at the end of the fiscal year will be the stage for reviewing and revising the goals.

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