Public servants second-worst for handling customer complaints

By Melissa Coade

December 16, 2021

Every day, public servants across the world write millions of formal memos, notes and briefings. (Image: Adobe/Monkey Business)

Government departments are among the worst performers for customer service, according to new survey findings released by ServiceNow.

About 1 in 4 respondents to the survey of more than 1000 people reported that government departments were only second-worst to telecom companies in handling complaints. Grocery and supermarket stores were the most highly rated for handling customer complaints, followed by healthcare services.

ServiceNow commissioned Lonergan to undertake the survey, which identified three key areas to improve customer service expectations relating to speed, operations, as well as understanding and engagement.

ServiceNow managing director Eric Swift said departments and agencies must ‘lift their game’ to meet expectations. Responsiveness was a top consideration, he added, with 51% of people reporting that the timeliness of their issue being quickly fixed impacted how they rated customer service, and another 47% reporting that how quickly they were able to reach a customer support person also impacted their final rating.

“Customers are looking for a simple, streamlined and personalised service. They want issues to be solved quickly, without having to speak to multiple people or being transferred to different departments,” Swift said. 

“This research shows that contacting customer service is all too often a frustrating experience. Speed, delivery and engagement could all be drastically improved if companies adopted the right technology to better connect different teams and departments, so customers get want they want, quickly and easily,” he said.

ServiceNow survey findings also showed that customer enquiries ‘rapidly increased’ since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and during nationwide lockdowns, adding pressure to what were already ‘troubled systems’.  Other factors blamed for poor service included ‘organisations making it intentionally difficult’ (24%) to resolve a problem, ‘issues with internal systems’ (17%), and ‘poor record keeping from previous service’ (13%).

On average, respondents said they spent more than seven hours (equating to 89.5 million hours wasted since June 2020) attempting to resolve issues and complaints. More than 50% of people reported that time spent on hold had increased since before the pandemic.

According to the latest survey, citizen expectations of how personalised a service should be, depended on their age cohort – the older a person was, the greater the expectation of good customer service being personalised to them.

A total of 75% of Baby Boomers preferred speaking to someone based in Australia in order to feel as though they were receiving good customer service. This compared with 54% of Gen X, 33% of Millenials, and 16% of Gen Z.

All age groups also reported a preference for dealing with one individual point of contact, with older cohorts wanting the customer service they receive to include an understanding of their transaction history (Baby Boomers, 42%; Gen X, 41%; Gen Z, 12%; and Millennials, 24%.

In November The Mandarin spoke with IPAA Queensland president Ian Stewart about the challenge of public service providers to deliver more personalised services to citizens. 

“Demand for personalised services is really important in that digital transformation space but your systems have to work to differentiate between the needs of different individuals and different groups, even different cultural groups within the community,” Stewart said. 

“It is certainly different sectors — business sectors, the not-for-profit sector, the charity sector, all of these areas have different needs,” he said.

The new survey also revealed that younger citizens were happier using automated systems like chatbots, with only 18% reporting they would always try and speak to a person, far lower than Baby Boomers, 71%; Gen X, 49%; and Millennials, 31%.


How can governments deliver customer experience like Amazon or Apple?

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