“In many cases I felt I could not provide real solutions to callers’ problems.”’They’re in denial’; MyGov users vent angerMyGov lockout143 years on hold to Centrelink
Over the past few weeks I have been employed casually with the Department of Human Services, answering calls for the Online Self-Services and myGov helpdesk. Casuals are being employed in call centres to provide assistance and promote these online services. After two weeks of training and one week taking calls I resigned because I felt I could not provide genuine service. In many cases I also felt I could not provide real solutions to callers’ problems.
Another DHS worker wrote on this site in May that many vulnerable people were having difficulties getting through to services because phone lines are jammed with calls about simple issues. I agree that a good online service could solve some of these difficulties. But at the moment sites like myGov are far too cumbersome. Some people are also uncomfortable using computers or live in areas of slow internet speeds. There seems to be little consideration now for people not wanting to use online services.
Many of the issues heard by the helpdesk are in regards to the myGov website. Unfortunately most issues were resolved by suggesting callers recreate their myGov accounts. Sometimes there was no other option. In other cases it was because no other option could be thought of. There was also the option of suggesting the caller could be having “intermittent” issues with their internet or phone network. Though not consciously suggested or meant, this had the appearance of trying to get the caller off the line.
If a caller wanted a better solution there is an “escalation system”. First a staff member can contact a local technical support officer. If this fails an online form can be sent to a national team. This is as far as the issue can be taken now and the caller must wait to be contacted. For both these support options a staff member has to note the number of resources they have used, including a template of common issues. This is why you will be asked if you have turned your computer off and back on!
The most common issues were people being unable to access their accounts or being locked out. We were told that people had three attempts at their username and password before being locked out for 12 hours. They would then have another two attempts before they were locked out of that account forever. Strangely the system seems to be set up in anticipation of these issues because we are all free to create, lock ourselves out and create a new account as many times as necessary.
A frequent problem is that callers insist they have used their correct username, password and secret questions. One person had even kept their original username, password and secret questions in a Word document. But they were still unable to get into their account.
A further complication for those locked out of their accounts is that the email address used is linked to that account. We could offer two solutions: an “email release”, where a request was sent off so the person could use the email address again. Or we could suggest they use a separate email or create a new email account. Understandably this caused a lot of annoyance. Many couples also found they required separate email addresses despite years of using one email address.
Even when people have access to their myGov account problems keep occurring. For example, a person could be trying to link a new service such as the Tax Office to their account, when they already have Medicare linked. They are unable to create the link because their details do not match. The issue seems to be that different government agencies have different information. So when a person attempts to link multiple records to their myGov account, the system thinks it is looking at the records of two different people.
As you may be aware, a number of government agencies are using the myGov website and more will in the future. However, the 13 23 07 number and the staff working on it now are employed by and use the Centrelink systems. But other agencies like Medicare and the ATO send their calls about technical issues to this number. If the issue is basic it can possibly be solved. However, staff cannot access other agencies’ systems and therefore cannot see if there is an issue there. For example, some callers have been unable to access Centrelink on their myGov accounts. This can be because their Centrelink record suggests that it does not have enough proof of identity, which will have to be presented at a physical office. If there is a similar issue for a customer of another agency, helpdesk staff cannot see this.
There are other online issues, such as SMS verification codes, missing online letters and people not being able to submit their claims or income reporting. However, I would like to mention a few of the technical issues from a staff perspective.
Being employed by Centrelink means not being able to view information about non-Centrelink customers. Staff are also unable to access myGov accounts remotely and reset passwords or unlock accounts. This is because the customer’s account is not part of a government record, therefore to enter would be a breach of security and privacy.
Furthermore, a person might call the helpdesk number with an uncommon issue, or one that cannot be addressed by the usual solutions. Therefore staff could search the Centrelink intranet, a main Centrelink wiki site or various wikis created by staff, as well as guides accessible to the public on humanservices.gov419论坛. While it is helpful that there is a huge amount of information, like the myGov site these resources are temperamental. Pages dedicated to the area of information required do not include what you are looking for. And using search functions, even with specific and correct page names, can bring up pages of irrelevant results.
Therefore, after only a few days on the phone I found myself feeling ill and depressed when awaiting the next phone call to arrive. I felt that I was unable to provide an adequate level of service – putting people on hold (and wasting their time and money) to search hopelessly and then usually have to inform them that they could start over or hope it was an internet issue. That is not good enough.
I worked with friendly and dedicated people, who I do not want to put down here. They are being failed, just as the customers are. I have admiration for those who I worked with, attempting to get through callers’ issues, and for those who called and were sometimes understandably upset.
Fast and easy online services are a good idea for those who want to use them. But instead of focusing on herding as many people on to an imperfect system, perhaps the focus can be on creating systems that are easy to use, that do not break down often and that can be understood by well-trained staff.
The author is a former DHS worker
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.