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Machines set to replace human ‘greeters’ at Centrelink offices

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Services Australia, the government behemoth that handles Centrelink and Medicare claims, will trial a new way of interacting with people.

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As the pandemic and recession force more people to rely on income support payments, and Medicare continues to evolve, Services Australia is looking to overhaul its face-to-face interactions.

The private sector has been asked about the prospect of supplying Services Australia with self-service check-in machines. That signals the end of the current arrangement whereby a Services Australia staff member greets people, equipped with an iPad to register their need for a face-to-face meeting.

Documents provided by Services Australia suggest it wants such a machine to be able to check a person’s identification, and potentially link with an app on their mobile phone or use biometrics – voice, face or other recognition – to ensure the privacy of their information.

Services Australia is also looking to reduce tensions over long waits in its centres by providing transparent wait times and data management, whereby a person would be given an estimate of the delay and potentially be able to leave the service centre and still be in the queue.

Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen said two concepts were set to be trialled to improve services and enhance the response to COVID-19.

“Services Australia is continuously looking for ways to improve our services, including simplifying face-to-face services for our customers,” Jongen said.

“While our staff are skilled and dedicated, we have more work to do to make customer service and customer experience our core focus. Given the trials are just that – trials – no decisions have been made on the future of service officers greeting customers and assisting customers, potentially with or without an iPad.

“Services Australia will be sure to share any improvements that are to be implemented as part of our vision to make government services simple so people can get on with their lives.”

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