home Customer Experience, Features How Service NSW led the way to customer-centric government

How Service NSW led the way to customer-centric government

Mark Atterby talks to Steve Griffin the architect behind Service NSW, by far the largest and most successful digital transformation / CX project in government. Steve explains how Service NSW overcame the challenges to create a one-stop-shop for government services.

Steve Griffin
Steve Griffin

In March 2011 the O’Farrell Government was elected in NSW with a key election commitment to a simpler government services plan.

Steve Griffin comments, “The simpler government service plans reflected the community’s views that government service delivery was poor – certainly in comparison to what citizens and businesses had come to expect from the private sector”.


“Government service delivery was simply not customer-centric at all. Most departments didn’t even consider that they had customers, neither did they refer to them as such (they have stakeholders – not customers!)”.

Dealing with government departments meant multiple forms, long queues, unavailability of service at convenient times, and confusion about which department handled what. Many government processes were manual and duplicated across multiple departments, costing taxpayers money due to inefficiencies and delays in delivering required services.

The catalyst for change

The NSW government wanted to restore the electorate’s trust in government and its public sector institutions. Providing exceptional service and customer experiences was viewed as a key strategy for restoring trust and faith in the government of NSW.

“They wanted people to be able to go to one location where they could do all their transactions with the NSW Government. They also wanted mobile apps built that made it easier for people to transact with government at their convenience”, explains Steve.

According to Steve there were three key factors that served as a catalyst for the government to take action:

1. Difficulty accessing government services – no clear delineation of which government or agency handled what nor clear path on who to contact.
2. Poor service quality – there was a form for everything and a queue for everything with very little digital fulfilment. Services were not available at times that suited customers.
3. The high cost of service delivery across government – 400+ service centres, 102 call centres, 900+ websites; 8000+ telephone numbers and 4000+ FTE).

Initial stages

Steve, who was in charge of NSW Fair Trading at the time, assembled a small team to assist with developing a business case to take to the NSW Cabinet for approval and the allocation of funding.
“Once we had approval one of the first key steps was to understand the ‘voice of the customer’. Asking people what they wanted before doing it was something quite novel within the public sector. We engaged BCG to undertake the voice of the customer research for us, which comprised interview surveys of over 2000 people and 20 or so focus groups”.

“We also needed to understand the service capability of each agency in the NSW Government, so we undertook a services audit requiring each agency to complete a survey”.

Biggest challenges

The changes that were being proposed represented a revolution in the way government delivered services. Steve says, “It was a massive 180 degree change in the way government had traditionally delivered services for over 200 years. Moving from departmental structures to customer-centric structures was a seismic shift in strategy, culture and processes”.

“It was a move away from our own bespoke IT capability to agile, cloud based technology platforms. We had to create a service based culture and hire the right people to fit that culture. We had to redesign processes and services that hadn’t changed in over 50 years.”

There were numerous challenges to the successful development of Service NSW and the centralisation of 16 agencies for the delivery of services. One of the biggest was change resistance from the various agencies and departments. “The problem wasn’t with the CEOs, but the people below them who would be losing budget and staff to Service NSW. We had to work very closely with and support these people to make it happen.”

Despite the challenges and hurdles, the initial ‘proof of concept’ project was completed within 12 months with the establishment of thirteen service centres across the state, a single call centre and a web portal (www,service.nsw.gov.au). They were all supported and linked to a CRM system to create an omni-channel experience for Service NSW’s customers.

NSW now leads the way and is a showcase for how government can take advantage of the latest in digital technologies and transform itself to deliver exceptional customer service.

Steve Griffin will be speaking at the next Networking Luncheon for Interact Melbourne. He will be presenting, in detail, the journey the NSW government took to revolutionise the way it delivers service to its customers.

Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience.