Ever wonder how much money Social Security will provide when you reach your golden years? The Social Security Administration has put the answer at your fingertips though the Retirement Estimator, a popular online service that can instantly tell you how much Uncle Sam will be paying you after you retire. Tim Evans can tell you how popular this service is—he measures it every day.
America seems to love the Retirement Estimator and many other components of the SSA website, says Evans, a program analyst in the SSA’s Office of Electronic Services.
According to a report issued in February by ForeSee Results, the Retirement Estimator was the top-ranked government site with a score that was 20 percent higher than the government average. Its score even tops the ratings for Amazon.com and Google.
And Nextgov.com rates the SSA websites among its top five sites for best practices. “It’s clear the Social Security Administration is doing something right with its website,” said Nextgov.com, which covers the management of information technology in the federal government.
Evans’ knack for using web analysis tools has been credited with increasing the public’s satisfaction with the SSA’s websites. They are notably user-friendly, especially when compared to other government sites.
“I started out with one customer satisfaction survey to try to figure out what works. Now it’s up to seven,” said Evans when asked how he became the SSA’s web analytics guru.
Evans manages data supplied to the SSA through the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), an economic indicator based on customer evaluations of the quality of their online experience. He also works with related data on the behavior, outcomes and experience of Americans’ visits to the SSA’s suite of websites.
After some 25 years at the SSA, Evans has become a leading advocate and spokesman, both inside the agency and in the larger federal community, for the value of using business intelligence and user data to improve government websites.
Jeffrey Caplan, director of the Division of eService Governance at SSA, said Evans’ work has focused not just on analyzing data, but also on interpreting the results and implementing improvements to make the agency’s websites more accessible and user friendly.
“Tim makes sure the questions we’re asking are pertinent and the results are properly interpreted,” said Caplan. “The key thing is providing actionable items. Analysis is good, but if it doesn’t come along with actionable items, then it does not improve anything.”
Although the Retirement Estimator is the best known of the site functions Evans monitors, he also manages surveys and data for many other SSA sites: Business Services Online, the Internet Disability Report, Medicare Subsidy Application, iClaim, which combines retirement and disability claims, and SSA’s main site.
“Tim took the bull by the horns and wrangled it by himself. Other people were supportive, but he was the one ultimately responsible,” said Renee Trujillo, director of the Center for Records Management at the SSA.
Trujillo said analyzing the experiences of end users was initially a tough sell to agency brass.
“He got management to buy in and talked to them about the benefits. He would do a lot of networking trying to convince people this was a good idea. Then, two or three years ago, there was a big shift. People started beating down doors to get his help. It represented a monumental culture change,” Trujillo said.
Details of the ACSI data can pinpoint potential improvements that can lead to more effective customer service and, of course, increased satisfaction. Evans’ detailed analysis of data and his recommendations have set the path for countless improvements to the SSA site.
Anyone who wants to know pretty much anything about their Social Security benefits can easily find the answers with the click of a mouse. And anyone who wants to know who made these resources possible need look no further than Tim Evans.