Hold the phone: government call centres out of favour

Australians are taking their complaints online, a new report from the Commonwealth Ombudsman reveals. And he’s given a pass mark to the public sector whistleblower scheme.

Australians are increasingly choosing not to interact with government call centres if given online alternatives. Just a few years ago telephone was king in complaints handling, but figures released today from the Commonwealth Ombudsman reveal a steep decline.

In the last two years, approaches via telephone have dropped from 70% of all interactions to just 56%, and electronic approaches — available via “Smart Form” since 2011 — have risen from 23% of all interactions to 35%. Written and in-person approaches remain steady at less than 5% each.

As the peak complaint handler for the Australian public service, ombudsman Colin Neave gets a lot of requests. In the last year there were 23,529 complaints or information requests, which represents an 11% decline from the previous year. The decline is attributed to recent improvements to communication encouraging people to first complain to the correct agency about their concerns.

Australia Post was the only agency to see a rise in complaints and, along with the departments of Human Services (Centrelink, Medicare and child support), Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Taxation Office, dominates the ombudsman’s workload.

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