TSP officials say they’re nearing ‘normalcy’ after a troublesome recordkeeper transition

Average customer service number wait times are down from over two hours to 15 minutes.

Average customer service number wait times are down from over two hours to 15 minutes. Me 3645 Studio / Getty Images

Wait times on the customer service number for the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings plan are down from over two hours to 15 minutes on average.

Officials with the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings plan said Tuesday that there is light at the end of the tunnel that is the Thrift Savings Plan’s troubled transition to a new recordkeeper.

Since June 1, when the TSP moved its recordkeeping services to a new provider, Accenture Federal Services, and updated its website to feature a more secure login process and a number of other changes and new features, participants have bemoaned difficulty setting up and logging into their accounts, finding account information and historical documents, and confirming their beneficiary choices, among other problems.

Those issues have been exacerbated by an unprecedented volume of calls to the TSP’s ThriftLine customer service number. Officials said last month that the vendor that manages the ThriftLine greatly underestimated the influx of calls they would receive, and was short staffed as a result.

At Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which administers the TSP, Participant Services Director Tee Ramos said Accenture and the call center company both have made progress on their respective problems over the last month, and a return to “normalcy” could come as early as mid-August.

In June, the call center added 550 new customer service representatives, followed by another 500 in July, although Ramos said those numbers don’t account for attrition over that period. The ThriftLine has seen an average of 34,000 calls per day since the transition occurred on June 1, but wait times have dropped from an average of over two hours to 15 minutes as of last week.

Accenture, for its part, has taken steps to streamline and simplify the account setup and login process for TSP.gov, and now around 90% of participants are able to log into the website for the first time without help from the ThriftLine.

“Optimistically, we’ll be at normalcy in mid-August from the call center perspective, and no later than late August,” Ramos said. “All of our numbers are improving: our abandonment rate numbers [when a participant hangs up while on hold] are coming close to normal . . . We’re looking to see if these changes are sustainable.”

Through the first month following the transition, the TSP processed an average of 1,967 loans per day, which marks a nearly 100% increase over June 2021, while there has been a modest uptick in the number of withdrawals per day at 14,465, compared to only 13,000 for the same month last year. Ramos attributed both increases to pent up demand following the weeklong service outage before the new recordkeeping system went live.

But the TSP’s efforts to fix the problems surrounding the recordkeeping transition have not come fast enough for some lawmakers. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., on Monday announced that they have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate what went wrong. Norton has previously said she is preparing legislation to establish an inspector general at the agency.

“I am deeply concerned about the widespread problems with the new TSP online system,” Norton said. “I continue to hear daily from constituents about the many problems with the new system. I will continue to demand immediate fixes to the problems, but we need to understand how this debacle occurred, which is why I am requesting a comprehensive examination of the new system itself, its planning and its implementation.”