The NSW finance minister has a brilliant list of 10 things government is really terrible at doing

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Dominic Perrottet went to renew his licence a couple of years ago and he wasn’t impressed with the service he got.

Usually, that would be the end of it. However, that experience stayed with Perrottet and he’s now the NSW minister for finance and services. He takes his job seriously.

“When was the last time you were surprised or delighted by a government department?” says Perrottet. “Unfortunately, many of our citizens have simply resigned themselves to poor customer service from the governments that are meant to make their lives easier.”

As minister for services, he is trying to ask hard questions about state government services.

His views became public this week when the minister delivered a speech at a McKell Institute function titled: Are you being served? Why government customer service is broken, and how we can fix it.

He put together his personal pet hates about government service or the lack of it. Here’s the list.

1. Not offering a way to give feedback.

“Many departments have no means to measure customer satisfaction or capture it, let alone respond to it,” he says.

2. Not providing ways to do simple things in your own time online.

“Most people would prefer to transact from their own homes or on mobile phones, yet governments have been slow to offer this,” he says. “Or when you do come in, wouldn’t it be handy if there was online access to help complete transactions or avoid queues?”

3. Ridiculous numbers of forms asking for the same information multiple times.

“Last time I checked universities didn’t offer degrees in complex form filling – but in some cases when dealing with government something like this might come in handy,” he says. “Some departments require you to fill out multiple forms, asking for the same information you may have just given another government department only recently, or forms can take days to complete.”

4. ‘Service centres’ that have bulletproof glass in old offices with uncomfortable furniture.

Perrottet says: “Everyone knows glass barriers create frustration, while the uncomfortable waiting areas make you wonder whether you are waiting at a bus stop rather than in a retail environment.”

5. Being greeted by a machine forcing you to take a number.

“Instead of being greeted by a friendly smiling face who can direct you to where you need to go, in government you’re first presented with a machine and treated like a number. It’s cold and impersonal – and many times, confusing,” Perrottet.

6. Keeping people on hold.

Perrottet says: “Nothing bugs people more than waiting on hold, not knowing how long you’ll have to wait. Or worse still, not having your call answered. If there’s long waiting times, tell me – or better, offer to call me back.”

7. Forcing people to take time off work because offices aren’t open at convenient times.

Perrottet says: “Even though the line between professional and personal lives are blurring, many government departments remain firmly stuck in a 9 to 5 mentality. In the digital era customers expect more and for businesses it can be difficult to ‘fit in’ with government set hours.”

8. Forcing people to visit multiple offices in different locations.

Perrottet says: “Wouldn’t it be great if all your business with government could happen in the one place? Instead, different government departments have different shopfronts at different locations. This often results in multiple trips, talking to a range of people, for what might seem one simple task.”

9. Long queues and no indication of how fast they will move.

Perrottet says: “No one likes spending time hanging around and yet sometimes waiting times can be more than 20 minutes for simple transactions. You can see the people waiting, but there only seems to be one person doing any work and dealing with people one at a time. If only staff could give an indication of how long the wait will be, returning the power to choose to the consumer.”

10. Asking people to make another appointment after they’ve finally spoken to someone.

Perrottet says: “Lets face it, if we’re doing a transaction with government, the last thing anyone wants to do is come into to do it at all if it can be avoided. But nothing is worse than getting to the end of a long line and then being told you that you don’t have the right information – and need to come back again.”

In NSW, Perrottet is working on making services better.

“We’re learning and we’ve introduced Service NSW, taking over 800 transactions from 16 agencies and putting them in one place, with better customer service,” he says. It’s open from from 7 am to 7 pm, there’s a concierge and the waiting time can be checked via smartphone.

Let’s see how that works out for him.

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