Organisation: Department of Human Services
Job Title: Service Officer – Service, Performance and Coordination
Word Limit: 400 words
Ability to research, investigate and resolve escalated, complex and sensitive customer
complaints, including providing ongoing management of vulnerable customers, and
managing aggressive customer behaviour.
Having worked for Centrelink for 15 years, and for more than seven years in my current role, I
have built on my ability to research, investigate and resolve escalated, complex and sensitive
customer complaints. In my day-to-day duties, I provide ongoing management of vulnerable
customers and often need to manage aggressive customer behaviour. I have learnt to respond to
each case within its own set of parameters, and am very mindful that there is always a real person
behind each claim or problem. Researching and investigating cases with the assistance of social
workers and health professionals for further information or clarification is also part of my daily
work in processing claims or enquiries.
When communicating with customers who may have a range of problems such as terminal
illnesses and/or difficult financial situations I utilise my natural empathy skills. Such customers
may encompass a range of emotions from anger, frustration, disappointment or confusion.
Similarly when working with vulnerable customers I call upon my highly developed communication
skills and am considerate in providing ongoing management and support to help them with their
case. I begin their claim process as quickly as possible, explaining the situation and what will
happen during the process to them clearly ensuring that they understand. I follow up to ensure
that the customer is kept informed and carefully explain to them why various decisions are made.
With aggressive customers I have developed the ability to speak with them in a calm and patient
manner, using a low voice and careful consideration of my wording. I actively listen and use verbal
cues to determine how I fully explain the situation to them, and offer suggestions of how they may
be able to obtain help in some other way including referrals to agencies or bodies outside
Recently a vulnerable customer requesting urgent processing of her Carer Payment/Carer
Allowance claims was referred to me. The customer had severe financial hardship due to ceasing
work to look after her parents and her recently separated partner had taken her savings. The
remaining family was surviving on her parents’ age pensions. I took measures to ensure that the
claim was processed quickly and once it was granted offered her a real time payment to enable
quicker access to the arrears payments. The customer cried and thanked me immensely and asked
if her parents could talk to me to express their gratitude.
2. Demonstrated ability to develop written correspondence to customers and stakeholders,
such as reports, corporate documentation and responses to complaints
Having extensive experience in Centrelink and my current role, I have developed my ability to
communicate effectively with customers and stakeholders via a combination of communication
methods including written correspondence. Written correspondence that I use includes
encompasses letters, emails, reports, completing corporate documentation and responding to
complaints from customers.
One regular avenue of communication is with hospital and other medical staff including social
workers, doctors, psychologists and other health professionals, often requesting medical reports
or clarification of specific issues. My familiarity with this work means that I communicate
effectively via written correspondence.
An integral part of my work is writing reports that document the claim process, including why an
application has or has not been granted. I take notes and produce clearly explained and
comprehensive reports in a timely manner. I efficiently complete the required processes for
individual case notes in customer records. This also assists when other customer service officers,
including staff at the customer’s local Centrelink office, deal with the customer and their enquiries
ensuring that the information contained in the record is up to date.
In my daily work providing excellent customer service to carers, I provide ongoing management of
vulnerable customers and have learnt to respond to each case within its own set of parameters. I
am very mindful that there is always a real person behind each claim, problem and complaint.
Complaints often come from customers who have had their application refused. In written
correspondence with them, as I do for telephone conversations, I clearly explain the reasons for
this, outlining any necessary Centrelink policy and how the decision has been made. Where
possible I also suggest other means of support or assistance.
I am a designated Subject Matter Expert in the newly introduced Workload Management System,
which is a tool for allocating workload to staff members. I put my hand up to comprehensively
study the system and to help other Centrelink staff with it. My specialist knowledge in this area
has led to my developing training packages for Centrelink staff and I regularly conduct talks and
training for other staff members, which includes written material. I consider that it is worthwhile
to invest time when someone is learning, as it saves time in the long run by avoiding the need for
reiteration and going over the same material.
Ability to drive continuous improvement via feedback to the business, the identification and
escalation of systemic issues, with an emphasis on the service delivery needs of vulnerable
and escalated customers
The skills and experience I have developed throughout my career equips me with the ability to
drive continuous improvement via feedback to the business and also to identify and escalate
systemic issues, emphasising the service delivery needs of vulnerable and escalated customers.
In my role of providing excellent customer service to carers, I provide ongoing management of
vulnerable customers daily and am aware of their particular needs and concerns. Occasionally I am
not sure of something in which case I always seek clarification. If it is more information, an
explanation or detail from the customer, I do it in a considerate and thoughtful way. I am always
very mindful that there is a real person behind each claim or problem and I recognise the
importance of responding to each case within its own set of parameters. It is also vitally important
that vulnerable customers are treated with respect and empathy and I always endeavour to
ensure that they fully understand the situation. If I detect that a matter is consistently presenting
a problem to such customers I make a note of it to follow up with the policy section of Centrelink.
In the case of escalated customers, I apply an equally considered response and note any problems
of a similar nature. I exercise sensitivity and discretion in my dealings with customers and always
seek the best outcome. If the situation requires further clarification I make the necessary enquiries
and communicate this with the customer. Where I perceive problems with policy or procedure, I
follow through with exploration of the best solutions and refer these on to Centrelink’s policy
Best business practice is a focus for me and it is critical for both the organisation and the
customer. If I require clarification on an aspect of Centrelink policy, I make enquiries and
familiarise myself with the required information. I recognise the value of beneficial legislation that
is in the best interest of the customer. As such if the legislation or policy seems unclear or
inconsistent I am not afraid to question it, and on occasion I have suggested an amendment or
expression of clearer intent. I have done this several times and have generally been successful in
having my suggestions incorporated.
Demonstrated ability to plan, organise, work independently as part of a virtual team,
meeting deadlines and contribute to the achievement of team outcome
My ability to plan, organise, work independently as part of a virtual team, meet deadlines and
contribute to the achievement of team outcome is demonstrated daily through the work I have
been doing with Centrelink for the past 15 years, with more than seven years in my current
position. Being part of a virtual team, where team members are physically located in different
places across Australia, I am able to prioritise my work autonomously.
Each day I plan my work, organise my priorities, make notes on progress and keep a folder of work
documenting the stages of each case. This is particularly helpful if the case needs to be taken over
by another team member at another time. I am adaptable and review my priority list throughout
the day and revise it as priorities change.
The ability to meet deadlines is imperative when dealing with vulnerable members of the public
such as carers. People are relying on decisions that are critical to their lives, and ensuring that
their claims, enquiries or problems are dealt with in a timely manner is very important to me. I am
always aware of the person behind the case and make certain that my work is completed within
the appropriate timeframe.
I have amassed a comprehensive understanding of the policy and procedures required within my
team, and find it rewarding to build on this on a daily basis. This understanding together with my
knowledge of resources that are available to the team, such as the Senior Support Officer, Level 2
Policy help desk, systems and the Operational Blueprint has led to me being appointed as a QOL
(Quality OnLine) checker. This involves checking the work of others and helping them to improve
their work. As part of the Carer’s Team duties I have also serviced the Access Support Line.
Another important aspect of contributing to the achievement of team outcome is in my role as a
trainer. As part of this role I provide tailored one-on-one training. This begins with my explaining
the qualifications for Carers using the Operational Blueprint. The trainee observes while I process
claims until the trainee has the confidence and ability to process claims. They do this with me as
an observer. The final step sees the trainee processes claims in their own right, although they are
able to call on me when required.
Ability to establish and manage stakeholder relationships including collaborating with them
to deliver quality outcomes for customers and the department
Establishing and managing relationships with stakeholders, including collaborating with them to
deliver quality outcomes for customers and the department is an important part of my daily work
as developed and demonstrated in my time at Centrelink.
Communicating with stakeholders is vitally important. Listening is the key to all successful
communication and without the ability to listen effectively messages are easily misunderstood. I
conduct my relationships with stakeholders with clear and easily understood communication. In
addition I am always respectful and thankful in my contact with stakeholders.
Dealing with stakeholders, which can include treating health professionals and social workers,
entails being up to date with the latest developments in order to provide the best outcome for the
customer. As Centrelink legislation and policy is updated or changes, being able to learn and adapt
has become vital and I enjoy building on my knowledge. Within the day to day expectations of my
employment I am expected to think strategically with the customer being the primary focus.
Another set of stakeholders that I deal with is staff participants in training programs. I often act as
the team trainer training new team members. I acknowledge that people learn differently and
have tailored individual training packages to accommodate different learning styles. In my training
I strive to impart the importance of delivering quality outcomes for the customer. I also tell them
that it is important to ask if they require help.