Tax Office is Aussie government’s front window

The contact centre is in the front line of changing customer expectations

The contact centre is the front window of a modern organisation and the Australian Tax Office (ATO) is for many citizens the front window of government, says ATO deputy commissioner Jane King.

With the trend to whole-of-government operation, where the customer expects to move smoothly between the services provided by one department and by another, the Tax Office is often the first port of call and becomes “the buffer between the public and government,” King says.

“Good service from government is equated with good government; a major department’s performance influences people’s opinion of the government of the day,” she told the G-force conference in Melbourne.

With this in view, the ATO is implementing ways to boost service levels and make more efficient use of resources.

This dual objective became a theme of the conference; the public wants technology to be used to improve service through the contact centre, but it is too easy for an organisation to be perceived as just doing itself good by increasing staff productivity. The ideal is to achieve both objectives with the same range of innovations.

The ATO is part-way to the integrated efficient operation that conference organiser Genesys Laboratories calls the “dynamic contact centre”.

It is beginning to use digital channels such as the web and text chat and automatically second-guessing customers’ needs. A customer typing in a query will be presented with a selection of links to services that might handle their needs and can drill down progressively to the specific topic, providing necessary information on the way, such as the size of their company.

This avoids the aggravation of irrelevant and time-consuming interactive voice-response (IVR).

In the course of advancment, the ATO has held what King calls “trade shows”, exhibiting advanced features to other deputy commissioners before releasing them, encouraging continuous top-level commitment to the advances.

The speed of answer has already improved “and we’re getting less abuse”, she says.

Stephen Bell travelled to Melbourne courtesy of Genesys.

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