Why cutting costs doesn’t mean cutting staff.

by / Monday, 29 February 2016 / Published in Digital, Government, Latest posts

News today that the NSW Government are appointing an expert panel to look at the myriad back office structures and systems of affiliated entities and corporations operating throughout the state. All of our recent work at GovCom would support the argument that in the digital age there are likely to be enormous efficiency savings to be made.

We’ve worked on countless projects across Australian state and Federal Government over the last few years that have found duplication of licences and examples of multiple providers and legacy contracts that are automatically renewed. In their place, progressive organisations are implementing back office systems that manage workflows, link purchase orders to invoices, some even allowing the customer to log in and see progress. It’s no longer rocket science.

And on each of the projects we’ve worked on, a structural alignment or review has brought immediate cost savings, in many cases easily into seven figures. Per annum. For ever more.
It’s sometimes as simple as just stopping to take stock. Sometimes.

But it’s a mistake for the press to assume that these reviews automatically means job cuts. In fact, we’re seeing a definite trend towards public sector organisations adopting an increasing focus on customers and for staff to be spending their time in a far more valuable way, helping customers.

From the emergence of “Have Your Say” style engagement platforms through to an interesting new campaign by Service NSW using the hashtag “givingserviceback”, public sector organisations are catching up with banks, Australia Post and other high street rivals who are all making life easier for us as customers. From Budget Direct’s initiative to send text messages when a hailstorm is on the way through to personally tailored apps and credit cards that you can just wave at a terminal, customers have never had it so good.

And amidst all the brilliant advances of tech, companies across Australia are rediscovering the value of the personal touch. Having helped out with some of the design and collateral for the launch of Service NSW, I’d say that their decision to put a smiling concierge at the front of the store was one of the hallmark decisions in the amazing success of the business. If there is anything worse than being in a long queue, its being in the wrong queue and this is the kind of thing that a concierge can solve.

Australia Post have a similar system, with attendants roaming the store to explain to clueless 50 year olds like myself how to use the vending machines (yes, really) and more importantly get the job done and get out of there in under five minutes.

My favourite restaurant is somewhere where the staff know my name, my UK bank picks up the phone after no less than a few rings and my long suffering regular barista pours the right coffee without me having to ask. And the key to all these things is people.

Its people looking after a problem on my behalf and ringing me back that keeps me loyal to a company. It’s people that provide consistently good service that keeps me coming back. Even if they’re not the cheapest or nearest.

And until the world of Blade Runner finally arrives, I don’t expect a machine to do that job as well.

Companies that will succeed in the digital age will be those with great products, meeting people’s needs at reasonable prices. The companies with the biggest market share will be the ones who invest some of the savings windfalls of the technology age into training and rewarding their people to do the best job possible.

It remains the best investment they can make.