NSW government service delivery woes prompt reforms

New South Wales has lowest satisfaction rate among states for customer service.

New South Wales is seeking to improve communication between the public and government through consolidation and new technologies, NSW Customer Service Commissioner Michael Pratt said at an Australian Information Industry Association lunch today.

Pratt started in July as New South Wales’ first customer service commissioner and was charged with creating an entity called Service NSW to improve interactions between people and their government. Pratt has a banking background, having held senior roles at Westpac, NAB and the Bank of New Zealand.

The banking industry is ahead of government by a “decade” on service delivery, Pratt said. Recent data shows that only 69 per cent of people in New South Wales are satisfied with the government’s service delivery, Pratt said. That’s the lowest rate among all Australian states, he said. In comparison, Tasmania has a 93 per cent satisfaction rate, he said.

Consolidation is a key element of Pratt’s strategy. The NSW government currently has 380 shop fronts, 30 contact centres, and more than 900 websites and 8000 phone numbers, he said. “From a consumer point of view, contacting government is a nightmare,” he said. “From a government point of view ... I see cost opportunity.”

Changing processes in New South Wales is a “five-year journey,” Pratt said. However, by July next year Pratt expects to have opened 18 new shop fronts across the state, a single contact centre and a new website, he said.

“There are dollars all over this,” Pratt said. Just reducing the number of contact centres would result in a “huge dividend” from reduced overhead and telecommunications costs, he said. Pratt admitted that staff reductions are likely. “Obviously, the more you re-engineer, go online, etcetera, the less people you need.”

Pratt wants the state government to embrace “more advanced forms of delivery,” including mobile and social media, he said. New South Wales hopes to engage people through telephone, store fronts, mobile and Internet simultaneously, he said. It’s a “huge commitment” that will take three to five years to implement, he said.

Licensing is one specific area where Pratt sees opportunity for consolidation. Currently, multiple cards are issued for different licences, such as driving and fishing, and each card is produced by a different manufacturer, he said. “What a huge cost opportunity,” he said. The job could be consolidated to one manufacturer, and all the different licences could be put on a chip on a single card, he said. “Or even better,” government could put all the licences on a person’s mobile phone, he said.

Shared IT services are part of the Service NSW vision, and “technology is critical,” Pratt said. “External service delivery is very dependent on really good internal service delivery.”

Some efforts to streamline government-to-citizen channels could raise concerns about privacy, Pratt noted. “How do we bring that all together in a way that satisfies your privacy concerns ... but deliver what you want? Because ... consumers more and more want to do government business in a much more simple and efficient manner.”

“People want both, and that’s the challenge.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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