From the CE – customer service matters to us

It has been several weeks since I last wrote for The Weekly. It has, as you know, been a busy few weeks.  

Many of you have been working to settle briefings for Estimates, contributing to finalisation of DEW’s 202021 budget measures, or focusing on delivery of the projects that are already underway. 

And many of you have been adjusting as we have commenced returning increased numbers of staff to worksites. I have enjoyed running into more of you around the building at Waymouth Street.

As we look towards the end of the year, I would like to acknowledge the work we have done together this year. 

The next two months will be intense, as they always are, and I thank you in advance for your continued commitment and effort.  

One area of particular effort is fire. There is a significant level of demand and expectation for the team who deliver our fire program, and I ask that we all provide strong and proactive support for this critical program over the next few months.

More broadly, the state budget, to be announced on Tuesday 10 November, will frame our strong focus on delivery as we turn our minds to 2021.

In the meantime, I would like to share some thoughts about customer service. 

At DEW we are focused on delivering the highest possible standard of service to South Australians.

As one of the things that matters to us, our next corporate plan will recognise that we work hard to understand our customers’ needs and to meet them.

DEW provides customer service directly to the public through a wide range of roles and functions including our parks and rangers, gardens and horticulturalists, customer service desks and customer service officers, licencing and permit programs, commercial sites, licences and leases, volunteer programs, and through our website communications and social media channels.

We also continuously contribute to high quality customer service by re-evaluating our programs and procedures, looking for opportunities to become more efficient and responsive across the agency.

I expect all staff to commit to a high level of customer service and to embrace the core principles of quality customer service: communicate clearly, commit to address matters in a meaningful way, safeguard confidentiality and be transparent about our processes. We are committed to putting community at the centre of our work.

Our Water Licensing Branch, our Customer Service Centre, and our Complaints teams have been busy in this space.

These teams strive to understand our customers’ needs and values by embracing digital technology reforms, delivering high-quality direct services, and learning from our complaints to strive to understand our customers’ needs and values.

Proactively adopting digital technology and reform is key to ensuring customers are engaged both efficiently and through their channel of choice.

Water Licensing Branch has transformed its water licensing services using digital technology.

The introduction of its online ‘smart’ forms simplifies transactions, better assists licence holders to be compliant, allows online payment and permit applications.  

A further improvement to the customer experience will be achieved through delivery of a modern online water register, which is expected to go live in 2021.

DEW’s direct face-to-face engagement with customers has a direct impact on the agency’s public persona. Public facing staff are often the public’s first and lasting impression of our agency’s work, so it really matters.

Our Waymouth Street Customer Services Centre delivers a range of DEW’s public-facing customer services including responding to enquiries related to park visitation and online bookings, supporting various business areas in their customer service delivery (such as Mapland, Fauna Permits and Water Licensing), and responding to other DEW related enquiries.

The team has taken advantage of the reduced foot traffic at Waymouth Street (during the pandemic) to explore how the delivery of services can be enhanced, both by embracing online delivery and refreshing its approach to staff interactions with our customers.

I know of other areas that have also used technology to improve the way they deliver customer service.

All of these areas have taken the opportunity to review their practices and consider ways to better share information to improve the use of technology and customer service experience.

This includes more practical training, developing dynamic and real-time tools to assist the public, and ways to share experiences within the agency.

Of course, at times our customers are not satisfied with the service they have received. I expect everyone to treat complaints from members of the public as opportunities: to reflect, to learn, and to do better. 

Effective complaint management practices identify and mitigate business risks. This in turn reduces costs, eases unnecessary work effort and simplifies work processes. 

DEW has an internal system for recording and reporting complaints and feedback from the public administered by the Complaints Team (in the Office of the Chief Executive). That team is always available to provide assistance and support.

All of that said, we do not receive many complaints, especially given the number of areas and different ways our business provide services to the community, which is a credit to the commitment each of you brings to this aspect of our work. 

With Christmas approaching, we must turn our minds to how we will ensure the availability of our services over the holiday period.

As during the pandemic, we can put technology to work to stay connected with the community, and to provide our services, even if our office doors might be closed in some places for a few days. Science Strategy and Corporate Services Executive Directors Sandy Carruthers will be in touch soon with more detail.

In the meantime, thank you for the ongoing commitment and outstanding contribution each of you is making to our work. It is acknowledged and appreciated.

Take care,

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John Schutz