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Government agencies less available in non-digital channels

Despite increased digitalisation, many people still need to phone or visit government agencies for assistance with important business. The Swedish National Audit Office's (Swedish NAO) audit shows that the availability of government agencies has deteriorated in non-digital channels.

Man in a callcenter

Photo: CAIAIMAGE

Digitalisation of government agencies’ activities contributes to more efficient and improved service for citizens. But for many people, being able to access service by phone or visiting in person is still important.

The Swedish NAO has therefore audited the ability of 22 agencies to provide service with good availability and quality for individuals who cannot or do not want to be digital.

The audit shows that many agencies have become less available in non-digital channels in the past ten years. Telephone waiting times increased at more than half of the agencies audited, almost half have reduced their opening hours for telephone customer service and some have cut their office opening hours.

“One third of the audited agencies have unreasonably long waiting times for phone calls. Seven agencies have average waiting times in excess of ten minutes. For the Swedish Migration Agency, it takes an average of 35 minutes for someone to answer and 23 minutes for the Swedish Public Employment Service," says Ingrid Edberg, project leader for the audit.

The audit shows that agencies’ customer contacts in digital channels have increased significantly, but despite this, the number of phone calls has not decreased. Simpler cases are now often managed digitally, at the same time as more phone calls come from people needing guidance on how to use the digital services.

Many agencies investigate the quality of their service by means of customer satisfaction surveys. But in many cases, these surveys are digital and therefore do not always capture the views of people who do not use digital channels.

“Digitalisation of the agencies’ range of services represents good management of central government resources. Nevertheless, the opportunity to contact agencies by phone and at a physical office is still important. This needs to be taken into account in the continued digitalisation process,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

Recommendations in brief

The Swedish NAO’s recommendations include the following:

  • The Government should set clearer requirements for also offering good service to non-digital users.
  • The agencies should ensure that their follow-ups of service quality also capture the views of non-digital users.
  • The Swedish Migration Agency, Swedish Public Employment Service, Swedish Pensions Agency, Swedish Tax Agency, Swedish Enforcement Authority, National Land Survey and National Archives should shorten waiting times for telephone service.
  • The Swedish Board of Agriculture should follow up waiting times for telephone service.
  • The Swedish Migration Agency should shorten waiting times for physical customer service.
  • The National Government Service Centre should follow up waiting times for service at physical offices.

See the report for full recommendations.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 05 May 2021

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