Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Inefficiency at Woodstock Social Security Office

If you go to the Woodstock office of the Social Security Administration, you’d better pack a lunch, a snack, take a pillow and some NoDoze.

I arrived at 9:03AM to just pick up some forms. You know – blank forms and maybe a set of instructions. Shouldn’t be all that complicated; right? Just go in, get the forms from a person at the counter and be on my way. Ha-ha, what a novel idea!

The lobby is a fairly small waiting area with a large sign that points to a computer, where you “register.” Register; yeah, sure. All you do in select one of four numbers. When you punch it, a slip is printed with the number assigned to you. My number was 60.

Well, that’s good and that’s bad. The good part is there is no guessing when it’s your turn. The bad part is you can’t tell what number is being waited on. The other bad part (for Social Security) is that the time of your arrival is printed right on your receipt, so you can easily tell how long you have been waiting (and how slow the service is).

Oh, yes. There is an armed security guard on duty. I didn’t know that Social Security clerks were so dangerous that the public would have to be afraid of being attacked. At least, there is no bulletproof glass needed yet to protect the public.

There were about five people ahead of me, and one service window was opened. The other was closed with some really serious-looking shutters. They are effective, too. You can’t see the SSA employees in the back, having their coffee or reading their newspapers.

The man being helped at the window wasn’t in any hurry, nor was the woman employee who was helping him. Sure, it’s nice to get friendly service from government employees but, after all, there were five people waiting. You can usually tell when there is a sense of urgency about workers and customers. When the customer is leaning on the counter and the employee is talking and talking and gesturing, often not much is happening.

At 9:08AM Customer Number 56 was called to the window.

At 9:13AM I approached Security Officer Hervey and asked to speak with the manager of the office about the inefficiency of the customer service agent at the window. Imagine my surprise when he told me that he could not call the office manager to the lobby. I intended to ask her to sit down next to me and observe the slow, slow, slow operation. And also the obnoxious, loud, wall-mounted television on in the lobby.

I was in the office on June 6, 2006, and observed exactly the same slow service. The problem is the bottleneck that exists at the only open window. The window clerk should quickly interview each arriving person and learn why they are there. Time-consuming requests should be handled by employees away from the intake counter. If the arriving customer’s matter can’t be handled in one minute and there are arriving customers yet to be seen, the customer sits down and waits to be helped.

Why should a person with a one-minute need have to wait 15-20-25 minutes just to say why there are there?

After returning home I tried to telephone the Woodstock office at 815.338.3751, but the line was busy several times. Next question? Why would an office telephone line ring busy? Hasn’t the SSA installed voicemail on Woodstock telephone numbers?

And the next question? Why in the world would there be an armed security office on duty in the Social Security office? Is the government afraid that a band of robbers will descend on the Woodstock office, with guns drawn, ordering customers to the floor, and demanding that the office surrender all its “Social Security”?

I complained about this, too, in June 2006. Lots of good that did. Talk about waste!

Well, there is always the tollfree number to Social Security: 800.772.1213 Hopefully, I can order the forms and instructions in considerably less time than waiting in the Woodstock office.


Gus said...

Well, no luck on the phone. After enduring a lengthy voicemail greeting at SSA that had nothing to do with my call, I navigated to the department for my topic. Several times a message played, telling me not to call early in the month (today is the 9th) or early in the week (this is late Wednesday morning). Then a message informed me that all customer service reps were busy, and I went on Hold. And then a message played that said, in effect, "We're having too much fun to talk with you now. Call back another time."
So even more time has been wasted, and I still don't have the forms and instructions I need. Maybe I'll just pack my lunch and go back to the SSA office in Woodstock with a good book and a stopwatch.

Gus said...

Guess I'll have to turn in my Sherlock Holmes cap. I totally missed the subtle warning on the computer generated ticket that I should expect a long wait. On the ticket is printed, "If you deicide (sic) to leave before your number is called, turn your ticket in to the guard."
Of course, now I wonder whether the ticket is generated locally by the software or if it is controlled by a master system. Who do you suppose can't spell "decide"?

Anonymous said...

I have learned never go to Woodstock it is much quicker (including drive time) to go to Rockford. They have a clue and go much much quicker.

Anonymous said...

You could visit Dr. Kevorkian's office instead. Better for everyone.