Importance of the customer
The NSW Government has prioritised customer service and
appointed Australia's first Customer Service Commissioner,
Mr Mike Pratt, in 2012. Commissioner Pratt's assessment of
key issues and future directions is included in this chapter.
Reforms to date include a 'one-stop shop' – Service NSW
– with service centres, a single 24/7 telephone service and
a single digital channel. Fostering a public service culture
where customer service is strongly valued is a legislated
objective of the Public Service Commissioner.
Other state governments have sought to measure customer
satisfaction with government services. South Australia has
run its Household survey since 2008 and the Queensland
Government ran its third Customer Satisfaction survey
The Australian Government has commissioned research
into the relationship between agency performance
and customer experiences. This research found that
high-performing agencies tended to deliver superior
customer experiences because they put more effort into
understanding customer needs, invested relatively more
time and resources, and were better at responding to
suggestions and feedback. High-performing workplaces
were also found to be more productive and therefore more
efficient in their service delivery.14
Many NSW Government agencies actively seek customer
feedback to improve service delivery; for example, the
Mystery Shopper Program conducted by the NSW Police
Force and the annual statewide Patient survey conducted
by NSW Health. A PSC survey in late 2013 identified that
94% of the 83 agency respondents collect feedback from their
customers and nearly three-quarters make changes as a
result of views presented by customers.
Until now, customer feedback has typically been
sought by individual agencies or programs, with limited
coordination or comparison of customer satisfaction across
agencies. To complement existing agency initiatives and
create a coordinated approach to customer service reform,
the Public Service Commission Advisory Board worked
with the Customer Service Commissioner and others to
develop a whole-of-government customer satisfaction
instrument in 2013.
The inaugural statewide Customer Satisfaction Measurement
Instrument – a survey of people who use public services –
was conducted by the Customer Service Commissioner
during 2014. It involved 6,208 customers, including
5,189 from the general population and 1,019 from the
business community, responding to a telephone survey,
face-to-face interviews, and mobile phone–based or
online questionnaires. A diverse range of customers
participated, including those from metropolitan, regional
and rural areas, with a mix of gender, age, ethnicity and
Twenty different types of services were included in
the Customer survey including education, health, roads,
transport, water licensing, agriculture, environment, family
support, housing, police, fire, emergency services, prisons,
courts, business advisory and art galleries and museums.
The objectives of this research are to understand the drivers
of customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction, in relation to
service quality and its relationship to public sector values,
goals and culture. The results provide baseline scores to
gauge future performance and the success of any reforms.
The views of customers, employees and services are
reported in this chapter.
Overall, the survey found NSW customers were relatively
happy with public services. The average rating for
satisfaction with services over the previous 12 months
was 7.3 for consumers and 7.4 for business customers
(on a 10-point scale). However, the experience was below
expectations for both consumers (7.6) and businesses (7.5).
The gap between expectation and satisfaction is reinforced
by the fact that only 43% of consumers and 45% of
businesses rate their experience as close to their vision
of an ideal service.
Public sector performance on core values was generally
good, with both consumers and business customers scoring
three out of four values at more than 7.0 (see Figure 12 on
the following page). The research found these values were
important in driving overall satisfaction, and among them,
good service and trust were the biggest drivers.
Figure 11: Customer perceptions of employees and processes
Figure 12: Customer perceptions of public sector values
Customers were also generally positive about issues such as
safeguarding privacy and confidentiality (7.6 for consumers,
7.7 for businesses) and the accessibility of information
about services (7.1 and 7.0 respectively). However, they were
most critical about the extent to which the public was able
to participate in decision making (6.0 from both).
When asked to rate the public service overall rather
than their direct experiences, customers gave lower
scores than for service satisfaction (6.5 for consumers,
6.2 for businesses). Three in four customers described
the public service positively, using terms such as 'capable',
'helpful' and 'friendly', whereas two out of three associated
it with being 'inefficient', 'wasteful', 'difficult', 'impersonal'
and 'inflexible', highlighting the imperative to improve
The survey also found that more than a quarter of
customers had complained to a public sector agency or
department but only 15% of these felt their complaints had
been handled well. Businesses, specifically, found it hard
to know where to lodge complaints at all. The findings
show that handling complaints well has a positive impact
on customer satisfaction, even more than reducing the
incidence of complaints.
The results of the inaugural statewide Customer survey will
be considered by the NSW Government along with advice
from the Customer Service Commissioner and department
and agency heads on how to improve satisfaction over time.
Overall, NSW customers
were happy with the
public services they
only 43% of consumers
and 45% of businesses
rate their experience
as close to their vision
of an ideal service.
14.Boedker et al (2011), Leadership, Culture and Management Practices of High Performing Workplaces in Australia: The High Performing Workplaces Index