ATO in race to update communication channels
The Australian Taxation Office is planning a major restructuring of its taxpayer communications channels in response to the increasing use of smartphones and social networks and people's desire to use these as avenues to do business.
The ATO's chief information officer, Bill Gibson, speaking at the Optus Vision 2013 event last week, said the Tax Office wanted to have an "agnostic" channel strategy, with taxpayer interactions possible on any device at any time. Some services would be available in three, others in up to nine months, he said.
"We are running at about 1000 miles an hour in mobile and things around online channels and how you converge and unify them. I have a large group of people that is flat out doing the things that we will make visible over the next nine months."
Mr Gibson said the ATO had been working for several years towards being able to offer taxpayers more options for dealing with it.
"For the last six years we have been getting our back office in order because for us to be able to offer online services to all taxpayers we have to have the back-end systems supporting them. The front end can then become more agile and responsive.
"We might not hit the mark initially but one of the other things we are looking for is feedback."
The ATO's current contact channels - face-to-face, phone, paper and online - are all managed separately, but "the intention with our new channel strategy is that we have one unified approach across these four channels," Mr Gibson said.
The new strategy includes a radical revision of the ATO's website set to go live on July 1. "For example, if you are an individual and you go online and identify yourself as an individual we should be setting the page so the things on it are the things that you need, instead of having a table of contents for the whole tax system, which is what the current ato.gov site looks like."
Catriona Wallace, head of customer experience consultancy Fifth Quadrant, described the Tax Office's approach as an omnichannel contact strategy, "a process whereby a consistent customer and brand experience is delivered to whichever channel the customer is interacting with".
Social networks had been expected to feature prominently in omnichannel contact strategies but Ms Wallace said this was proving not be to the case.
"We see that investment in social media has plateaued and that most investment is now going into mobility because we are seeing 100 per cent growth in the use of mobiles."
The author attended the Optus event in Sydney as a guest of the company.