Governments across the country are using new service agencies to rebuild their relationship with their citizens, offering services that are simpler and faster to use, powered by smart digital systems.
Typically, governments are choosing to establish new stand-alone agencies to build strong customer-centric cultures and to overcome inter-agency rivalry and duplication of systems.
The ACT government was among the first to unify their service offering and in Brisbane the Queensland Building and Construction Commission has been winning national awards for its sharp focus on service.
But it has been the rapid rollout of a new service agency in New South Wales that has attracted most attention. Set up as a new agency, Service NSW has completely revolutionised the way citizens interact with government, representing Australia’s first integrated public sector service model. Service NSW integrates three communications channels: a dedicated digital service, a customer call centre and shop-front services.
It represented a major change for NSW residents, who had battled to do business with hundreds of unconnected shopfronts and websites and thousands of government phone numbers routing into 30 call centres.
In stark comparison, Service NSW now offers a single point of engagement for NSW residents and businesses transacting on a range of services including drivers’ licences, birth certificates, seniors’ cards, Opal top-ups, competency cards for serving alcohol, contractor licences, translator services, e-toll account management — around 800 services in all.
The efficiencies created during the rollout of Service NSW are endless. Nine out of 10 people in any year have contact with the NSW government, equating to about 40 million transactions a year.
Transactions that were once a manual undertaking — involving double and triple handling — are being digitised, leading to huge gains in turnaround times for applications. For example, the seniors’ card application process used to take eight days to complete, but now takes just three minutes.
NSW set out to give citizens an omni-channel experience that would give them ownership over the transaction process. It also represented a major cost saving for the government as digital transactions become the new norm. Service NSW executive director for service delivery, Dr Rachna Gandhi, told a recent conference the number of users using the digital channel (self-serve kiosks) in service centres had gone from 3% to 30%.“We didn’t spend a cent, we spoke to the frontline and said ‘what would you do?’.”
“We didn’t spend a cent, we spoke to the frontline and said ‘what would you do?’,” she said. Now, 30% of customers entering service centres are being migrated to self-serve. “There was no project in head office, there was no big change program, all we did was empower the frontline,” she said.
Service NSW executive director for service delivery, Dr Rachna Ghandi, told a recent conference the number of users using the digital channel had gone from 3% to 30%. “We didn’t spend a cent, we spoke to the frontline and said ‘what would you do?’,” she said. Now, 30% of customers entering service centres are being migrated to self-serve. “There was no project in head office, there was no big change program, all we did was empower the frontline,” she said.
Research by Deloittes earlier this year found that reducing transactions on traditional channels by 20% over a 10-year period would bring benefits to the public sector of around $18 billion. The research also found an estimated further $9 billion in savings in time, convenience and out-of-pocket costs to citizens would also be realised from this relatively modest shift to digital.
The Victorian government is currently preparing a business case for a unified service agency based on the savings that comes from digitalising services. And in Canberra, the new Digital Transformation Office is now working on a new business registration system, a better way to apply for a Medicare card and on a new entry portal for government services, through the gov.au portal.
User experience vital
A key principle of all these initiatives is a sharp focus on users and their journey.
“Following the end-to-end journey of the customer is a powerful business intelligence loop, which quickly enables agencies to understand what’s important in the digital world,” said Barry Dietrich, the regional VP of public sector at Salesforce Australia/NewZealand (Salesforce is a partner of Service NSW).
“This direct feedback offers two distinct paybacks for government. It deepens insight into community issues and concerns, and also enables agencies to collaborate with their users to develop programs and projects that have real impact.
“A digital solution builds a powerful two-way channel between governments and citizens, and this combination of communication is fuelling a new type of engagement.
“A digital solution can give governments, institutions and businesses huge efficiencies in their processes. Losing a wallet on a weekend won’t cause major panic any more, for example. Instead of waiting until Monday, heading to the transport office, taking a ticket and waiting for a service attendant to call your number, you can just jump online to Service NSW and complete the task of replacing your lost drivers’ licence within a couple of minutes at most. It’s invaluable.”
The combination of simple and efficient digital interactions and an empowered frontline staff has seen a remarkable level of customer satisfaction, with Service NSW now consistently achieving 98% satisfaction levels.
In contrast, a recent survey commissioned by the DTO found over 50% of users of government services were dissatisfied.
A ‘start-now’ approach
Another learning from the Service NSW rollout was that by applying agile methodologies a base service platform can be up and running very quickly. Since then the platform has been upgraded several times with major features and design changes based on the learnings of real users.
The decision was made to hit the start button on the ServiceNSW rollout on a set date — before all service providers were completely ready — bringing a sense of urgency to the process.
This approach of building a minimum viable product is now being championed by the DTO. Its new CEO, Paul Shetler, has committed the DTO to roll out its new business application process and the first beta version of gov.au in just 20 weeks.
“Governments are really transforming at a holistic level from the adoption of cloud-first policies to a digital-first policy,” said Dietrich.
“This is transforming the customer experience and leading to a rapid improvement in citizen satisfaction plus substantial savings. Those savings can then be used for frontline services like nursing, policing and teaching, which is the whole point.
“Improving efficiencies in this way is paramount in the digital age.”