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Virtual Finance Customer Service coming to MacDill

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Brian Kehl
  • 6th Comptroller Squadron commander
For 20 years I have banked with a financial institution that I have never visited. Most of you can make a similar statement. Advances in IT systems allow us to connect to our financial institutions 24/7. Most of us pay bills, deposit checks, transfer funds and check account status from the comfort of our office, home or from a wireless device. For many years the Air Force Financial Management community has been working to implement virtual capabilities within the constraints of our governing regulations. While we are not as "virtual" as your personal banking institution, great strides have been made to allow service members to complete financial transactions, file travel vouchers, invest in the Thrift Savings Plan, start/stop allotments, etc., from a CAC enabled computer versus making a trip to Finance.

On Sept. 14, 2007, the Air Force began consolidating military pay and travel pay transaction processing to the Air Force Financial Services Center (AFFSC) at Ellsworth AFB, S.D. The consolidation has been a painful process as the Air Force FM community tries to more efficiently utilize scarce manning resources while providing quality customer service to Air Force members no matter where they are stationed or deployed. Improvements have been made and future improvements are in the works. Over the next few years as the AFFSC and the IT systems supporting it mature, service members will be required to click on the AFFSC's Web page to get information, process pay transaction and check on the status of pending travel payments. If customers have questions, they will call a toll free number and be connected to a technician at the AFFSC who can provide personalized assistance. Visiting a local Finance office will only be necessary for the most complex pay/travel issues.

In April 2009, in an effort to utilize virtual customer service processes, the 86th Comptroller Squadron at Ramstein AB, Germany, closed their walk-in finance lobby and implemented virtual customer service. Since that time they have demonstrated that about 1.2 percent of requests for financial assistance require a customer to visit Finance and that more than 98 percent of transactions, including complicated overseas entitlement changes, can be handled electronically via a CPTS organization e-mail box, DTS, eFinance, etc. Moving to the "no-lobby" environment gave customers thousands of hours back - no more traveling to Finance, waiting to see a technician and then traveling back to your duty location. I understand some people like sitting in a waiting room watching Sports Center or texting friends/family, however the AFSO21 office tells me it's a really inefficient use of your time.

In the virtual environment, customer's primary method of contacting Finance is an organization e-mail box with guaranteed 24-hour response and typically four-hour response times. For difficult cases (the 1.2 percent), a finance technician calls customers after receiving an e-mail in the org box and schedules a same day appointment or an appointment most convenient for the customer which eliminates lobby wait times. Commanders and First Sergeants are provided a safety net in the form of a special phone number so they can work directly with a Finance technician when one of their Airmen needs immediate assistance. I understand a closed lobby is a paradigm shift for many of us with a little bit of grey hair, but the statistics from Ramstein demonstrate that virtual customer service cuts out significant time wasted waiting in lobbies.

The 6th Comptroller Squadron is working with the 6th Air Mobility Wing's AFSO21 office to develop an effective, efficient virtual customer service function similar to Ramstein's. Our goal is to go 100 percent virtual in April in conjunction with our move into a newly renovated building; however, the tools are in place for service members to start utilizing virtual Finance now. I highly encourage you to send your finance questions to the org box ( versus taking time out of your busy schedule to come sit in the lobby. We will quickly respond to any and all questions. Also, the next time you are on the Air Force portal click on "virtual Finance" on the left hand side. You will find rates, quick lookup tables for frequently asked questions, instant advice, and links to electronic tools like eFinance and DTS which will allow you to handle most military and travel pay transactions without coming to Finance. One area that will not change is the transportation incentive program (bus pass/van pool). Per guidelines outside our control, participants will still need to visit the disbursing cage once a quarter to sign for three months of passes/vouchers.

As we get closer to April more information will be provided on exactly how virtual finance customer service will operate. Our commitment to MacDill Airmen is to provide the best possible service in the most efficient manner.