In the summer of 2019-20, Australia was impacted by a series of devastating bushfires that destroyed hundreds of homes and left a damage bill in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In NSW, fires burnt through seven percent of the state. They immediately left state government agencies, insurers, utilities, charities and other organisations with an enormous task to capture the extent of the damage and loss, and to help those impacted rebuild their homes, lives and communities.

“Many of our regional towns were impacted quite heavily,” Service NSW customer insights manager Philip Bland says. “People lost homes and property; small businesses lost incomes, jobs and trade.”

“And one of the requests from our state government was, could Service NSW help be the front door for those people to start their recovery journeys?”

The result was the Front Door to Recovery program, and through that the Bushfire Customer Care Service, which is helping NSW residents with everything from clean-up to securing financial assistance.

Service NSW teams stood up the capability extremely quickly. “From an announcement to getting content to the public was less than 24 hours,” Bland says. “We have some incredible teams”.

The agency was also able to reuse experience management (XM) software made by SAP’s Qualtrics that it had successfully deployed elsewhere to reduce red tape for new small businesses starting in the state.

Experience management is the process of monitoring every interaction people experience with a company in order to spot opportunities for improvement, according to Qualtrics.

“[We were] able to pivot XM into the Bushfire Customer Care program, which is an incredible outcome for the government,” Bland says.

Service NSW wanted to provide residents impacted by the fires with the resources they would need to rebuild. To do that, it needed to understand what they needed.

“The power of understanding the data of those customers and the stories they told was critical to make sure that we matched them with the right initiatives, we got the right communication out, and we could communicate to senior leaders across government the needs of that community,” Bland says.

To get that data, Bland says the agency surveyed its frontline staff in call centres, mobile service centres, pop-up sites and recovery centres.

“Due to the nature of the bushfire program we were running and the significant anxiety, trauma, and loss that people had suffered, we pulled back on the ability to measure the customer directly,” Bland says.

“What we really focused on was our frontline staff hearing the customer stories, and telling us where the gaps were in the services that were already available at that time.

“We can see where the ‘voice of customer’ is coming from straight away. We can get a breakdown of where customers are attending, whether it's our contact centers, email, talking to our staff from mobile service centres, or it's even in pop-up locations where we have a stand set up. We also have our support office who might be receiving correspondence from local Members of Parliament.”

Data captured included the type of property of business that a person had, the nature of damage and their insurance status - that is, whether they were insured or not.

“This is really, really powerful when we're talking about decision-making for legislation initiatives to be signed off, and for Treasury allocations,” Bland says. “The power of this data is really incredible.”

Reports generated by the Qualtrics XM platform helped senior leaders drill down into the data and understand differences in needs across the different fire affected areas of the state.

It also helped the NSW Government coordinate response efforts with local non-government organisations (NGOs) on the ground, such as the Australian Red Cross.

“A great example of how this tool was used quite quickly is, once we deployed the tool, we were actually [giving] the data from these ... feedback reports to our senior leaders and executives who were then meeting with agencies such as the Red Cross, disaster welfare assistance and emergency management, so we could really articulate that ‘voice of customer’,” Bland explains.

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