You asked, we answered: over 10,000 family tax time questions

The Department of Human Services responded to thousands of questions on Facebook and Twitter over the month of July, with more than 1,000 questions coming in on the busiest day.

Families are always eager for information at tax time. The department’s team of eleven service officers and specialist social media advisers were in charge of giving families the information they needed to balance their family assistance payments.

Amanda Dennett coordinated the team. She said they prepared for tax time by finding out the most commonly asked questions from previous years, so they could predict what answers families were looking for.

“Each year during the Family Tax Benefit balancing period, there is a big increase in the number of people calling the department, and we find many are calling when they don’t need to,” said Amanda.

“Not every family needs to do the same thing at tax time, so we identified nine common scenarios behind why people call. We shared these scenarios on our website and the Family Update Facebook page so families could identify which scenario best fit their circumstances.

“Our Family Update team was there to help families that still needed extra advice, responding to more than 10,000 questions on Facebook and Twitter over three weeks.

“We also directed people with general questions about what to do and when their payments would be balanced to a ‘Tax Time Checker’ on our website.

“This checker was used more than 70,000 times in June and July, potentially saving thousands of families from having to call.”

Amanda said real-time information about trending enquiries was collected and shared between staff in social media and the call network to improve business processes online and on the phone.

“Many people wanted to find out how long it would take to get their supplement payments once they had lodged their tax return.

“As soon as we saw it was a common enquiry we posted information on Facebook to help answer the question and prevent unnecessary calls to our call centres,” said Amanda.

Call wait times were down for families compared to the same period last year, and the number of people who spent time on the phone or visited a service centre to tell the department they didn’t need to lodge a tax return halved.

Improvements to digital service options made it quicker and easier for families to balance their payments using the Express Plus mobile app or Centrelink online account.

The automatic balancing process was brought forward to the start of July, so fewer families were waiting for their payments to be balanced. More than 500,000 families’ payments were balanced in the first two weeks of July, twice as many as the same period last year.

Amanda said it was pleasing that a small team engaging with people on social media was a significant part of helping the department manage such a busy period.

“The outcomes are impressive, but to be honest, the best result for the team has been the feedback from people who visited the Facebook page to thank them for making their experience better,” Amanda said.

“‘Thank you – you saved me a call into the centre!’ and ‘Good job in answering everyone’s questions in terms we can all understand,’ were just some of the positive comments left on the page.

“It’s great to hear that having a wealth of information at their fingertips made this tax time the simplest yet for many families.”

Infographic with stats from tax time 2016

More information

Join 73,000 other families on the Family Update Facebook page for important updates about payments and services,  or tweet your questions to @FamilyUpdateAU.