Chapter 3

Customer focus

The experience and perspectives of consumer and business customers are essential in assessing how well the NSW public sector is performing.

This chapter explores these perspectives but also assesses what is being done within the sector to develop the workforce so it can to continue to meet the demands of the community, especially in areas identified as requiring improvement.

The NSW Government believes a strong customer-centred approach is essential for delivering the best possible services. Across NSW, public sector agencies seek customer feedback to help improve the quality of their services. The Customer Service Commissioner’s Customer Satisfaction Measurement Survey, which the PSC Advisory Board helped establish in 2014, is an additional method of regularly measuring customer satisfaction across the whole public sector.

The Customer survey is designed to provide a greater understanding of how customers perceive public service performance; the overall customer satisfaction with different types of services; the key drivers of customer satisfaction; and areas for improvement to increase overall sector performance.

The voice of the customer

All customers involved in the 2015 Customer survey had dealt directly with NSW public services in the last 12 months. They included consumers, businesses, patients, passengers and students. The survey aimed to involve a representative sample of the general population based on age, gender and region (metropolitan, regional and rural), and a representative sample of the business community based on location and size (number of employees).

The methodology was tested in 2014 with a survey of 6,208 customers and results were published in last year's State of the NSW Public Sector Report. In 2015, 5,263 customers completed the online survey: 4,137 consumers and 1,126 businesses.

The survey gathered feedback on 21 types of services related to roads, public transport, vehicle and boat registration, water supply, agriculture, environment, health, education, art galleries and museums, family support, housing, business advice, fire and emergency services, police, prisons and courts.

Customer satisfaction

Customers in NSW were generally positive about the individual services they used. Consumers reported an average satisfaction rating of 7.3 out of 10, and businesses reported a satisfaction rating of 7.2 out of 10. Although these satisfaction ratings were below customer expectations of the services they received (7.7 for consumers and 7.6 for businesses) compared to their idea of an ideal service, 65% of consumers and 67% of businesses still stated that the service they received was close to their ideal experience.

Variations in satisfaction

Retirees had more positive perceptions (8.0) than full-time employees (7.1) or students and unemployed people (6.8); smaller businesses were more satisfied (8.0) than larger businesses (6.9); and rural businesses were more satisfied (8.1) than those in regional and metropolitan NSW (7.1). There were no significant differences between male and female respondents.

Ratings were higher for customers using online services (7.5 for consumers, 7.4 for businesses) than those accessing services in person, often due to shorter waiting times and the perception that online processes were simpler.

Customers were generally positive about service performance against the public sector values of integrity, trust, service quality and accountability (6.8 for consumers and 7.2 for businesses across these factors). Performance against standards of integrity received the highest rating, and accountability received the lowest score.

Customers whose complaints were handled well rated their satisfaction as higher than average, which suggests that the simple step of improving how agencies handle complaints could significantly improve customer satisfaction overall (see Figure 9).

Figure 9: Impact of complaints handling on customer satisfaction

Bar chart of 'Figure 9: Impact of complaints handling on customer satisfaction'

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Group Level of satisfaction - Handled poorly (1-4 out of 10) Level of satisfaction - Handled moderately well (5-6 out of 10) Level of satisfaction - Handled well (7-10 out of 10)
Consumers 5.7 6.7 7.7
Businesses 5.7 6.5 7.7
Overall average satisfaction 7.3

Source: Customer survey 2015

Employee performance in delivering services

Customer perceptions of employee performance when delivering services ranged from 6.7 to 7.6 for consumers and businesses, consistent with the 2014 results. The highest ratings were for honesty, safety standards and services without bias. The lowest ratings were for accountability, getting things done quickly and seeing things from a customer perspective.

Figure 10: Customer perceptions of performance by employees delivering a service

Bar chart of 'Figure 10: Customer perceptions of performance by employees delivering a service'

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  Consumers Businesses
Are honest 7.6 7.5
Deliver high safety standards 7.5 7.5
Provide services without bias 7.4 7.5
Explain intended actions clearly 7.3 7.3
Are reliable 7.2 7.3
Are consistent 7.2 7.2
Communicate well 7.2 7.2
Engender confidence in their knowledge 7.2 7.3
Do what they promise 7.2 7.2
Focus on addressing customer needs 7.1 7.1
Provide good-value services 7.1 7.2
Are proactive in helping 7.0 7.1
Are held accountable 6.9 6.9
Get things done as quickly as possible 6.8 6.8
See things from my perspective 6.7 6.8

Source: Customer survey 2015

Satisfaction ratings for processes were lower (6.1 to 6.8). The highest ratings were for processes being easy to understand, while the lowest were for processes being designed to reduce waiting times, and getting the right person the first time.

Drivers of satisfaction

The responses suggest employee actions fall into three key categories affecting customer satisfaction:

  • Honesty and integrity – providing services without bias, being honest, having high safety standards, doing what they promise and being consistent
  • Communication – explaining intended actions clearly, communicating well and engendering confidence in their knowledge
  • Efficiency and effectiveness – getting things done as quickly as possible, being held accountable, focusing on addressing customer needs, seeing things from the customer's perspective, providing good-value services, helping proactively and being reliable.

Analysis shows that these three drivers – and those relating to access to services – are more important for explaining satisfaction than drivers relating to privacy, transparency, processes and employee autonomy. When performance against each of the drivers is taken into account, employee efficiency and effectiveness (in delivering simple and efficient processes) and access to information are two priority areas where the public sector could achieve the biggest increase in overall satisfaction with services.

While the survey identified common drivers of satisfaction for the entire sector, their relative importance does vary across services (see Figure 12). This implies the need to target improvements in specific services in order to increase sector-wide satisfaction.

Figure 11: Relative importance of drivers affecting customer satisfaction

Diagram of 'Figure 11: Relative importance of drivers affecting customer satisfaction'

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Drivers of satisfaction

  • Communication
  • Efficiency and effectiveness of employees
  • Honesty and integrity of employees
  • Access
  • Privacy
  • Transparency
  • Simplicity and efficiency of processes
  • Employee autonomy

Primary outcome measure

  • Customer satisfaction

Related outcome measures

  • Accountability
  • Service quality

Source: Customer survey 2015

Figure 12: Focus areas for building customer satisfaction with different services

Diagram of 'Figure 12: Focus areas for building customer satisfaction with different services'

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Mapping to whole-of-government drivers

Primary opportunities

Access to information and online services
  • Car and boat registration
  • Fire brigade
  • Public transport
  • Public schools and TAFE
  • Courts
  • Consumer affairs
Efficiency and effectiveness of employees
  • Public transport
  • Water supply
  • Public schools and TAFE
  • Public hospitals and ambulance services
  • Police
  • Environment and wildlife protection
  • Documentation services
  • Disability services
  • Courts
  • Art galleries

Secondary opportunities

Employee autonomy
  • Public hospitals and ambulance services
Transparency
  • Major roads
  • Public housing
  • Consumer affairs
Simplicity and efficiency of processes
  • Public housing
  • Major roads
  • Car and boat registration
  • Services for older people

Areas to 'build on'

Privacy
Honesty and integrity of employees
Communication
  • Public housing
  • State emergency services
  • Child welfare services

Source: Customer survey 2015

Comparisons to other governments and industries

When the same survey was undertaken with customers in other government jurisdictions, the results showed that NSW is performing on par with the other eastern states, New Zealand and the UK in terms of customers' overall satisfaction with services provided (7.0 to 7.3 for consumers and businesses).

Satisfaction with the NSW public sector 'brand' (6.5) compares favourably with other industries, and although this is lower than the overall rating for services in NSW (7.3), it is on a par with Queensland, Victoria and the UK, and above New Zealand (6.1).

Figure 13: Customer satisfaction with the NSW public sector 'brand' compared to other industries

Diagram of 'Figure 13: Customer satisfaction with the NSW public sector brand compared to other industries'

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Average consumer satisfaction rating

  UK NSW Vic Qld NZ
Airlines 8.0 7.0 6.9 7.1 7.2
Public Service 7.6 6.5 6.5 6.5 6.1
Telcos 7.3 6.0 5.9 6.0 6.3
Banks 7.1 6.4 6.4 6.5 7.0
Local council 7.0 6.0 5.8 6.1 5.6
Energy providers 6.6 5.9 5.6 5.7 6.4

Source: Customer survey 2015

While there are minimal differences at the sector-wide level across jurisdictions, the variations in satisfaction based on service type and mode of delivery may present opportunities for cross-jurisdictional education and training. That is, agencies that perform better could share resources with those that receive lower ratings, in an effort to raise satisfaction levels for the sector as a whole.

The results of the 2015 Customer survey highlight areas of excellence and opportunities for targeted improvement. The overall analysis indicates the need to focus on customer service that promotes integrity and trust, and builds perceptions of accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, simplicity, communication, access and inclusiveness in all delivery modes – in person, online, by phone and via email.

The survey also provides baseline scores that will help guide decisions about sector-wide priority focus areas. These figures will be used to gauge future performance and the success of reforms from the customer's perspective.

Implications for workforce management

The workforce, particularly in the front line of delivering services, has a major impact on customer experience – and how customers perceive that experience. The 2015 Agency survey looked at customer service from two perspectives: from government agency to consumers or businesses, and from government agency to government agency. This provides valuable insights into how all agencies deliver services, regardless of who their customers are.

The survey shows that around two-thirds of the 105 responding agencies primarily provide services to individual consumers or businesses. A large proportion of these agencies report implementation of the strategies listed in Figure 14 (70% to 98%) but a smaller number have well-developed strategies in place.

Figure 14: Agency strategies to improve customer service

Diagram of 'Figure 14: Agency strategies to improve customer service'

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  % Highly developed % Developed % Basic % Recognised % Not recognised
Business processes take into account the needs of the customer: 98% implemented 31 50 17 2 0
Employees are trained in delivering a high level of customer service: 88% implemented 11 46 31 11 2
Strategies exist specifically to improve complaints handling: 91% implemented 21 45 25 5 4
A process exists for regularly collecting customer feedback from all major customer groups: 84% implemented 24 40 20 9 6
A process exists for acting on customer feedback data: 83% implemented 16 36 31 11 5
Customer service is a key performance indicator for front-line employees: 88% implemented 20 48 20 13 0
Customer service is a key performance indicator for senior manager: 87% implemented 14 52 21 12 1
Agency benchmarks its customer service against other organisations: 70% implemented 14 18 38 18 11

Source: Agency survey 2015

These findings are similar to those of the Customer survey, and show that while good progress is being made with customer service, there is more work to be done to cement these gains.

There was a similar result for innovation, where agencies reported high levels of implementation for statements relating to intent and leadership, although some of the actions that have an immediate effect are still in the early stages of being implemented and are not fully developed.

Improvements in collaboration regarding service policy and regulation (see Chapter 6) may also help improve customer satisfaction in coming years as agencies develop partnerships with consumer and business customers or their representatives, and strengthen their customer-centred approach to decision making.

High satisfaction ratings for online services are a sign of NSW's growing maturity, innovation and investment in technology, and advanced digital service provision. A sector-wide focus on improving service processes and the inputs required to access them will help improve customer satisfaction, especially with regard to getting things done quickly and seeing things from the customer's perspective.

To the next level

With around two-thirds of individuals and businesses saying that the service they receive from agencies is close to their ideal, NSW is performing well in customer service. However, as discussed in this chapter and the Customer Service Commissioner's message, there is still extensive scope to further develop current initiatives and to address areas of concern.

To get to the next level of performance, it will be especially important for agencies to focus on doing straightforward tasks efficiently and well, providing citizens with clear information about services, providing good-value services, seeing things from a customer perspective, being accountable and reliable, and further developing the strategies that build perceptions of integrity and trust.

Snapshot – Service NSW

Service NSW has instigated a program based on a philosophy of continuous front-line service improvement.

Called Circle of Service (CoS), the program gives all Service NSW employees a say in 'what we do and how we do it'. Initially launched in June 2014, the program examines ways to increase long-term productivity through the better use of resources while simultaneously improving customer satisfaction levels.

Since its launch, more than 1,500 ideas have been submitted and almost 400 have been or are in the process of being adopted. These include changes that have enhanced customer service for people taking a driving test, making a digital transaction or using children's entertainment in a service centre. All of the adopted ideas have made Service NSW more efficient and improved customer experiences.

CoS is now at a stage where money is being invested in digital engagement platforms that will allow customers and employees to vote on new ideas. The results will be published on the internet and the Service NSW intranet.

Message from Michael Pratt, Customer Service Commissioner

The NSW Government is working hard to transform our state. Pivotal to this is putting customers at the centre of policy and service design.

The results from the 2015 Customer Satisfaction Measurement Survey highlight the need to continue to improve our services. The survey identified primary focus areas of opportunity to improve overall customer satisfaction. This includes improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our employees, supported by simpler processes and improved access to information. That is to say, we need to ensure our staff are supported by improved processes to deliver a great outcome.

The success of Service NSW is a testament to the importance of a customer-centric culture, and how improved processes support employees in delivering great customer outcomes.

The 2015 survey results also emphasised the role that online services play in improving customer satisfaction. The NSW public sector will be delivering more transactions through digital channels, and a Digital Council has been created to provide a whole-of-government focal point for digital services.

We will continue to build on the momentum with a number of whole-of-government initiatives being delivered over the coming years. These include the Digital Licence Program, a whole-of-government Community Engagement Platform, the launch of the MyServiceNSW Account, and also the delivery of the Easy To Do Business initiative which provides businesses with a single entry point to navigate government. We are also developing a NSW Government Customer Dashboard that will not only improve transparency, but will ensure that senior leaders across government understand the customer experience delivered every day.

These initiatives will be supported by a measurement framework that will build on the annual Customer Satisfaction Measurement Survey. The 2015 survey benchmarked our performance against other jurisdictions, highlighting opportunities for cross-jurisdictional learnings and education. This survey will be implemented each year, and we will continue to benchmark our performance against other governments and leading public sector organisations.