Corruption Matters - November 2016 - Issue 48

Whole-of-government complaint-handling improvement program

by Deputy Ombudsman Chris Wheeler   

The NSW Ombudsman has partnered with the Customer Service Commissioner and the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation to develop a whole-of-government Complaint-Handling Improvement Program (CHIP) as part of Premier’s Priority 12 to improve government services.

Women on the phone

In 2015, the Customer Service Commissioner’s whole-of-government customer satisfaction survey highlighted the importance of improving the complaint-handling experience of customers to increase overall satisfaction. The survey showed that customers who had their complaint handled well gave a higher-than-average satisfaction rating for government services. However, less than half of those surveyed thought their complaint was handled well and half thought it was too difficult to make a complaint.

A follow up survey of complainant experiences highlighted a number of key areas for improvement. Complainants indicated they wanted:

A separate survey of agency complaint-handling systems conducted by the NSW Ombudsman revealed additional areas for improvement, such as the need to empower frontline staff to resolve routine complaints without escalation, improve accessibility and learn from the complaints data.

Based on the information obtained from the surveys as well as the NSW Ombudsman’s longstanding experience in complaint-handling, a two-staged program was developed and endorsed by the Secretaries of all 10 principal departments in July this year.

Stage one involves cluster agencies adopting and implementing six “Commitments to Effective Complaint-Handling” through their policies, procedures and practices. The six commitments are centred on respectful treatment, information and accessibility, good communication, taking ownership, timeliness, and transparency.

Stage two of the program involves the development of a “no wrong door”  whole-of-government complaint system that would provide customers a central point (in addition to, and ideally linking with, existing agency systems) to lodge, track and manage complaints.

The program team, comprised of representatives from the three partner agencies, is currently working with the clusters to assist them to implement the commitments. A business case is being developed for stage two of the program.

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