How a banker delivered happy customers to the NSW govt

The banker tasked with shaking up customer service couldn’t have predicted the success. The Mandarin talks to Service NSW commissioner Michael Pratt.

Michael Pratt

Michael Pratt

Michael Pratt wasn’t long home from Shanghai, after three years as an executive with Standard Chartered Bank, when the call came from Barry O’Farrell: how would he like to fundamentally reform government customer service?

Pratt had climbed to the top of the banking tree: CEO of the Bank of New Zealand, a senior executive at NAB and Westpac, a sweeping role across north-east Asia on consumer and business banking at Standard Chartered. Why take on what must have seemed like a poisoned chalice? Pratt needed to know the then-New South Wales leader and then-Premier and Cabinet secretary, Chris Eccles, were serious. “The last thing I wanted to do is go and do something where there wasn’t a commitment for it,” he told The Mandarin from his Sydney office earlier this month.

Pratt was convinced the commitment was there; staff in the premier’s office backed the idea that “if government did something about this in a serious manner it would really resonate with citizens” and convinced the premier to move. In July 2012 Pratt was named the state’s inaugural customer service commissioner, a corporate executive tasked with wrangling the public service to improve the interface between citizens and government services. In two years the project has become perhaps the Liberal-led government’s biggest success story — and there’s plenty more reform to come.

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