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"" Summary
"" Introduction
"" Vision for the Future
"" Strategic Issues & Challenges
Strategic Goals and Objectives: Goal I
"" Objective I-A
"" Objective I-B
"" Objective I-C
"" Objective I-D
"" Strategic Goals and Objectives: Goal II
"" Management Strategies
"" Program Evaluations
"" Next Steps
"" Exhibit 1: Planning Framework
"" Exhibit 2: Customer Service Plan
"" Exhibit 3: Performance Goals, Indicators, & Measures
"" Exhibit 4: Planning Assumptions
"" Exhibit 5: Key External Factors
"" Appendix: Profile of the RRB
''" Agency Management & Reports
'' Financial Actuarial & Statistical
''" Plans, Reports & Inventories
''" RRB Mission
Railroad Retirement Board Strategic Plan 2006-2011
Strategic Goals and Objectives
Goal I: Provide Excellent Customer Service View Strategic Plan in PDF

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We aim to satisfy our customers' expectations for quality service both in terms of service delivery options and levels and manner of performance. We have established four strategic objectives that focus on the specifics of achieving this goal.

Strategic Objective I-A: Pay benefits accurately and timely

In fiscal year 2005, 99.62% of all initial recurring railroad retirement benefit payments were accurate. In fiscal year 2005, the unemployment insurance payment accuracy rate was 98.73% and the sickness insurance benefit payment accuracy rate was 99.94%.

The RRB is committed to ensuring that we pay the right benefits to the right people in a timely manner. We have a number of measures in place to track the accuracy and timeliness of the actions we take in a year, both in the Railroad Retirement Act (RRA) and Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) programs.

The principal indicators of accuracy are the benefit payment and case accuracy rates in each program. Our long-term performance goal is to meet or exceed 99 percent payment accuracy in the payments we initiate or manually adjust in a given year. (Payment accuracy is defined as the percentage of dollars paid correctly as a result of the adjudication action performed.) We also have long-term case accuracy goals (the number of cases paid without material error/the number of cases paid) of at least 94 percent in RRA cases, and at least 98 percent in RUIA cases. To accomplish these goals, we will:

  • Monitor payment and case accuracy and identify problems.

    We will continue monitoring the accuracy of award actions, looking at performance trends, and identifying problem areas. On an ongoing basis, we use that feedback to identify opportunities for process improvement, make recommendations for automation initiatives, and identify training needs.

  • Provide feedback and take additional preventive actions as appropriate.

    On an ongoing basis, we will also continue to provide constructive feedback to organizations for their use in enhancing and rewarding individual or group performance. We will also provide training, as appropriate, to prevent recurrence of human errors. 

  • Ensure accurate, up-to-date, accessible instructions to support our front-line employees as they provide customer support.
  • During the planning period, we expect to:

    • review and consolidate procedures in an on-line environment;
    • develop on-line, interactive, technical courseware which will enable us to provide basic and refresher training in adjudication of our Acts; and
    • provide on-line links to detailed procedures at the desktop to support our employees in handling error-prone or unusual cases.

  • Inform our customers about their responsibilities.

    In all communications with our customers, we will provide clear guidance on their responsibilities to provide accurate, complete information. This will allow them to receive the maximum benefits to which they are legally entitled, while helping the agency avoid erroneous payments.

We measure the success of our efforts to make timely payments by looking at a variety of information, such as our performance against the Customer Service Plan, and average processing times.

One performance goal for timeliness is to achieve the levels of service outlined in the Customer Service Plan. Our Performance Budget sets yearly targets for the percentage of customers that will receive service in the time frame specified in the Customer Service Plan. These targets are revised annually based upon such variables as projected workloads, process capabilities and available resources. To accomplish these goals, we will:

  • Ensure that the Customer Service Plan is comprehensive and is revised when appropriate.

    Currently, the RRB's Customer Service Plan has a number of timeliness goals for initial retirement, survivor, and disability decisions and payments, as well as for unemployment and sickness insurance applications and claims. A timeliness goal is also in place for handling customer inquiries. Progress against our goals is tracked and reported to our customers annually. Over the course of the planning period, we will review the standards in the plan to ensure that they are consistent with our performance goals, and expressed in terms that are both useful to our customers and easily measurable.  

  • Promote direct deposit for benefit payments.

    Lost or stolen checks have caused financial hardship for RRB beneficiaries and additional cost to the agency to resolve claims and handle additional calls. Direct deposit is a safe, secure, and less costly method of delivering benefit payments. We will continue to work with Treasury to promote direct deposit for RRB beneficiaries.

  • Monitor key payment workloads.

    We will continue to monitor our performance on key payment-related workloads. We will aim to maintain the on-hand balances at the end of the fiscal year at or below the “normal working balance” -- that is, the number that can reasonably be worked off by existing staff within the timeliness standard set for that work.

To improve our long-term performance in disability timeliness we plan to:

  • Allocate resources effectively.

Since 1998, we have improved the timeliness of rendering disability decisions and plan to make further progress. During the planning period we will align our staffing resources appropriately from claim handling areas which have already benefited from automation efficiencies to the disability area which, by its very nature, is more labor intensive.

Strategic Objective I-B: Provide relevant, timely, and accurate information which is easy to understand

We responded to 98.5% of all written inquiries within 15 days of receipt, in fiscal year 2005.

In addition to making payments, we provide a variety of information to our customers. We provide general information through our web-site, publications, and our toll-free automated Help Line. We also provide information to individuals through annual statements of wages and compensation, annuity estimates, notices of annuity and benefit awards and changes, annual income tax statements, and answers to questions regarding benefits. It is important that we provide this information in a timely manner and in ways that are accessible and responsive to the individual's needs. The information must also be meaningful to the customer and easy to understand. The timeliness of our information is measured by how well we succeed in achieving the levels of service designated in our Customer Service Plan and by acceptable workload balances. Customer feedback will help us determine if the information we are providing satisfies the customer's needs and expectations.

To accomplish this, we will:

  • Listen to our customers to determine their expectations and whether those expectations are being met.

    • We will continue to review feedback we get from customer comment cards available in our field offices.
    • We will continue to use customer feedback to identify gaps in our performance. When appropriate, we will provide our employees with training opportunities to improve their communication skills.
    • As funding allows, we will conduct customer satisfaction surveys which will give us feedback on this and other goals. We plan to continue use of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to evaluate customer confidence; the Index has been used successfully by the agency in the past.
    • We will continue to conduct a variety of special studies/periodic measures, such as post-service follow-ups, when problem areas are identified and as resources are available.
  • Adjust our Customer Service Plan or our processes, based on customer feedback.

    Using the feedback generated from our customer contacts, we will look for opportunities to improve our notices and publications. We will also review the Customer Service Plan, in part, based on feedback received and make revisions as appropriate to respond to our customers' requirements.  

  • Monitor key informational workloads.

    We will continue to monitor our performance on key workloads, such as providing tax statements. We will aim to maintain workload levels at the end of the fiscal year that are at or below the normal working balance.  

  • Focus on interactive electronic solutions that provide immediate responses and intermediate status updates.

    We will continue to pursue interactive Internet and telephone solutions that provide verification and monitoring capabilities of requested information and claims. We will also pursue options to provide the capability for claimants to be transferred directly to a claims representative from an electronic application, when appropriate.  

  • Fully develop a Customer Contact Log.

    A fully developed Customer Contact Log will enable agency staff to record information about a customer call or inquiry and maintain it on a database. This information will then be accessible for retrieval and updating the next time that customer contacts us, no matter who takes the call. This will enable our front-line employees to ensure that the customer is being given accurate, consistent information, and will provide for continuity in providing service to our customers. A prototype for this system was developed in 2001 to assist the agency with implementation of the Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act.

Strategic Objective I-C: Provide a range of choices in service delivery methods

In order to fulfill customers' needs, we must provide high quality, accurate services on a timely basis, and in ways that are accessible and convenient to all our customers, including the elderly and those with impairments. Consistent with our vision statement, we strive to provide a broad range of choices for customer service. Independent surveys of RRB beneficiaries reveal they prefer to obtain service through personal contact, primarily by telephone. However, as electronic self-service becomes more accepted by our customers, we will continue to expand our service delivery choices through the Internet and our interactive voice response system (HelpLine).

In fiscal year 2005, the Railroad Retirement Board (“the Board”) approved a plan to better position the agency's field service for the future. The plan calls for a hub and spoke structure with a number of service centers that will provide face-to-face and telephone service for the agency's customers. The plan would also facilitate consolidation of agency field offices, provide for co-location of field offices with other entities, and provide for introduction of virtual offices in the field. The plan's goal is to continue the agency's commitment to outstanding customer service through an efficient field service structure.

In discussions with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) concerning the Board's fiscal year 2007 budget, the Board agreed to hire a consultant with input from agency staff, rail labor, and the rail industry, to review the hub and spoke plan and to develop a 5-year implementation plan. The plan would include consolidation, co-location, and/or the establishment of virtual offices and demonstrate out-year savings without serious erosion of customer service.

Our level of performance will be measured by how well we succeed in providing the level of service our customers expect, and by the number of new electronic services we can provide in each program at a reasonable cost. Our long-term goal is to expand customer choice by offering alternative access to our major services.

To achieve this objective, over the course of the next 5 years, we plan to:

  • Increase opportunities for our customers to conduct business in a secure manner over the Internet.

    The RRB web site allows customers to request replacement Medicare cards, duplicate tax statements, statements of service and compensation and rate verification letters. It also provides the capability to request a retirement annuity estimate, pay certain debts to the agency, file unemployment applications and claims, and view a summary of unemployment and sickness insurance benefits paid. Future services will include allowing our Medicare contractor to provide changes of address and death notices, and the ability to file sickness insurance claims and retirement applications.  

  • Provide additional services through the HelpLine.

    We will offer most of the same service options available on the agency's web site through our 1-800 RRB HelpLine. We will also add a number of new services, including options for retirees to obtain information about their monthly payments, such as the date of payment, amount, and method of payment, as well as information about Federal income tax withholding, including the amount of withholding and withholding election status.

    We will consider using speech recognition technology, in addition to touch-tone service, and providing an option to route calls to local field service representatives. The option of routing calls to the local field service representative would enable us to provide toll-free service while retaining the benefits that the customers associate with our network of local field offices.  

  • Seek customers' service delivery preferences.

    Our customers can choose to obtain service in-person (both at field offices and through our customer outreach program), via telephone, via mail, or through advanced technology, such as electronic mail, the Internet, fax, and interactive voice response systems.

    We will consider ongoing input from meetings with our customers, customer satisfaction comment cards, feedback from our own employees and customer surveys such as the ACSI to obtain additional feedback about how our customers want their service delivered. As we expand our uses of newer technologies, we will ensure ease of use by providing clear and easy to understand instructions within a private and secure environment.

Strategic Objective I-D: Ensure efficient and effective business interactions with covered railroad employers

To correctly pay benefits, the RRB must receive timely and accurate reports of the wages and service months of covered employees. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide these reports with respect to its employees. To ensure the receipt of accurate and timely forms, reports, and payments, the RRB must strive to provide rail employers with reporting processes that are easily understood, that place minimal burden on the employers, and ensure compliance with applicable laws and guidelines. To accomplish this, the RRB intends to:

  • Continue to develop electronic services that enable the employer to conduct daily business transactions and file required reports in an efficient, effective manner.

    Annual employer reports filed electronically, or on magnetic media, of wages and service months of covered employees now cover 98% of all employees. This reduces the reporting burden on covered employers and helps to improve the accuracy and timeliness of the reports.

    We have identified 74 forms that we use to conduct business with covered employers. Our long-term aim is to review all these business interactions and determine if we can be more efficient by providing the capacity to initiate and retrieve this information via the Internet or other electronic means. We are accomplishing this objective using a multi-faceted approach as follows:

    • The Employer Reporting System (ERS) is an interactive web-based system which currently makes four forms available on the Internet. We are testing two additional forms which will be available for employers to use during fiscal year 2006, and have defined software requirements for several additional forms. We are also looking for ways to streamline the reporting process by consolidating the number of forms requiring completion.
    • Employers have been given access to make lien recovery payments through the Department of the Treasury's web-based Pay.gov. In the coming months, registered employers will also be able to receive bill notifications electronically.
    • We have just implemented a process for providing employers with quotes for lien settlements via secure e-mail. The use of secure e-mail will expand as our experience with it grows, and proper information collection clearances have been obtained.

  • Continue to look for ways to encourage employers to file accurate and timely annual service and compensation reports.

    We will continue and expand on our training programs to provide employers with needed assistance.

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Date posted: 11/27/2006
Date updated: 11/22/2006