The Centrelink call centre disaster
Have you ever had to ring the Centrelink call centre?
Despite practically everyone in the country either personally or through a close friend/colleague having a horrendous experience in trying to call Centrelink, we regularly hear the Government refer to statistics that seem to be very different from what the majority of Australians experience.
In a Senate Estimates committee on 2 March 2017, we may have finally got to the bottom of why they were reporting surprisingly short average wait times.
To save you a lot of reading, here’s how the Centrelink call centre manipulated their stats which deliberately mislead the real customer experience:
- A transfer to a new line becomes a new inquiry, and as such, the clock would start again, deputy secretary for service delivery Barry Jackson told the senators. It essentially is counted as becoming a new call into the system.
- If a person spends a long time listening to the hold music but has to hang up before they get anywhere or if the agency hangs up on them the call is recorded as abandoned, and the time spent waiting does not contribute to the average either.
Did things get better in 2018?
- Between July 1 last year and March 31 this year, 36.3 million calls had been met with a busy signal, down from 37.4 million calls in the same time period 12 months earlier. That’s still terrible.
- Even when you do get through, of the 23.379 million calls that were answered (or handled by a robot), 4 million callers still hung up in frustration after waiting too long.
- Average wait time on calls had increased between March 2017 and March this year, from 15 minutes and 44 seconds up to 15 minutes and 56 seconds.
- It’s not just calls either – processing times for payment applications have also gone up with it taking 49 days on average for an age pension application to be approved and 47 days for a carers payment up from 36 and 28 days respectively in 2016-2017.
Is the Centrelink Call Centre going to improve in 2019?
You’d like to think so.
The new Minister for Human Services and Digitial Transformation, The Hon Michael Keenan MP, was appointed in August 2018 although if recent politics is anything to go by, we’ll probably have a new one in a few more months.
Meanwhile, Centrelink paid American Call Centre Consultant Brad Cleveland $430,000 to provide a series of recommendations that are currently being implemented.
Don’t get me wrong, Brad is a smart and knowledgeable guy with a great reputation (and a good presenter) but it’s pretty sad our own Government couldn’t engage some local consultants and support our own industry.
The Government has also thrown a bunch of extra funding to call centre outsourcers with another 1,500 staff added in August 2018.
This will go some way to helping to handle additional volumes and is a boost for the outsourcers involved.
Clearly though, for the customer, it’s still a terrible experience for any customer trying to connect with Centrelink.
But you’ve also got to feel for the contact centre staff who no doubt are the on the frontline of the customer’s fury all day every day.
Let’s hope they get it sorted soon for everyone’s sake.
Recommended further reading: How to stop telemarketing calls in Australia
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Need to contact the Centrelink Call Centre?
There are lots of different numbers depending on the service you need. Visit this page on their website for a list of all Centrelink phone numbers.