Government lags a decade in service delivery

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Government lags a decade in service delivery

Former banker flags major service delivery changes.

The NSW Government is ten years behind best practice when it comes to delivering high quality customer service to its citizens, according to Michael Pratt, NSW Customer Service Commissioner.

Speaking at an AIIA customer service forum, Pratt said rebuilding customer service in NSW is a multi-year journey.

“We’re currently a good decade behind where the best practice is in the financial services industry,” he said.

Pratt was speaking from experience. Prior to his Commissioner role, he held senior roles at the NAB, Westpac and the Bank of New Zealand.

The first stage of NSW’s customer service transformation, which was flagged in the “NSW 2021” strategic plan, is to open 18 new shopfronts capable of dealing with 210 government transactions, as well as a new transaction-based website.

“This is the first tranche of our promise,” he said.

At present, the NSW government has 380 shopfronts, 30 contact centres, 8000 phone numbers and over 900 websites. The promise of the 2021 plan is to whittle those down into a more manageable number.

Pratt said ideally he would like to see a service such as New York’s “311” central contact phone number for government services delivered in NSW. However, he added, there are simple logistical details standing in the way.

“It’s almost impossible to get a three-number phone number in Australia that’s not emergency services,” he commented.

He also said simple efficiencies such as a single license card for the many licenses issued by the NSW government would be introduced.

“I look at a license, and people in NSW have licenses for driving, for fishing, for all sorts of things, and as a banker I see great potential for simplifying things and introducing cost savings,” he said.

One way of achieving this, he added, would be a smart card capable of storing all of a citizen’s licenses on a single chip-equipped card.

Changing the way government delivers services, he said, isn’t just a matter of reducing the number of store fronts and websites. It’s also a cultural change within the government and pubic service.

“It’s about how we can be better set up internally,” he said. “It’s not just process, it’s also policy and cultural change within the government. Technology and people are critical to the transformation.”

NSW 2021 is a ten year plan with three overall components. The first is to rebuild infrastructure, a move flagged recently with the release of the 20 Year State Infrastructure Strategy. The second element is a public service commission, investigating the role and functioning of the public service, while the final leg, overseen by Pratt, is a total transformation in the way government delivers policy to citizens.

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