Self-service not serving all at Centrelink

When DHS and Centrelink was hit with a series of critical reports about its customer handling, the department went to work on improvements. The Commonwealth Ombudsman says considerable progress has been made in the last year, but self-service still doesn’t work for everyone.

On the heels of the Digital Transformation Office’s findings that half of Australians remain unpersuaded by government digital services, the Commonwealth Ombudsman has his own concerns that Centrelink is pushing digital self-services that aren’t friendly enough to all its customers.

Releasing a new report today, ombudsman Colin Neave acknowledged the Department of Human Services had made considerable progress in the last 12 months to rectify customer service shortcomings highlighted by complaints to his office and detailed in a report on Centrelink last April.

That progress, however, only concerned some of his 33 recommendations, mainly around document handling, internal review, management of internal complaints, and the improvement and expansion of self-service and online channels. The ombudsman has continued to receive complaints that indicate service quality has gone backwards in other areas, leading him to conduct the 12-month review, which resulted in 12 new recommendations.

In a statement today, Neave says “that emphasis on self-service does not work for all customers and can, in itself, be the cause of customer complaints” — a fact he says is most obvious from the ongoing complaints about Centrelink’s online and call centre services his office is still receiving from a small but nonetheless important minority of customers. He adds:

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.