Culture

This Uni Student Has Perfectly Pointed Out Why Centrelink’s Social Media Presence Is So Dumb

Why is Centrelink even on Twitter?

Centrelink

If you’re one of the millions of Australians that have had to interact with Centrelink you’ll almost certainly agree with the suggestion that the agency isn’t exactly known for its excellent customer service.

Even if we leave aside the robo-debt, years of budget cuts have degraded Centrelink’s capacity to actually do its job, leading to millions of unanswered phone calls and long waiting times.

These days if you’re getting stuffed around on the phone by an organisation or brand there’s an easy alternative: social media. Most big companies have social media teams devoted to scouring Facebook and Twitter for customer complaints, and most of the time they can be pretty helpful.

Centrelink has a social media presence as well, but it’s… much less useful. In fact, most of the agency’s tweets seemed designed to highlight how useless their social media presence is:

So if you’re stuck and can’t get onto Centrelink on the phone, don’t bother tweeting at them because there’s literally nothing they can do.

The agency’s website explains that “you can connect with us through a number of official accounts”, but that connection doesn’t extend to any kind of personalised assistance because the people running the Twitter account aren’t able to access anyone’s accounts. All they can do is refer you to the Centrelink hotline. But since most of the tweets are the result of people being unable to get through on the hotline that seems incredibly redundant.

A recent Twitter interaction between Centrelink and Patrick Laverick, a 23-year-old student living in Melbourne, sums up the pointlessness of the agency’s online presence.

Patrick was struggling with Centrelink website, which kept throwing up errors, and couldn’t get through on the phone so he decided to tweet them.

Centrelink hit back with this very useful reply:

When Patrick explained that he had tried to call and use the app, but wasn’t able to get through, Centrelink was even more helpful…

… Which led to this perfect mic drop:

Patrick told Junkee that he had decided to jump on Twitter because he was having problems with Centrelink’s app and worried his payments could be cut off.

“I logged on and the app had auto-filled my income at around $1,500 for the fortnight, which was more than double what I really earned,” he said. “Any attempt to change this wouldn’t work and eventually the app crashed and said the system was down. I logged onto their website on the computer to try that, same thing happened and I got an error message.”

After trying to resolve the issue through Twitter and Centrelink’s automated phone service he eventually got through to someone on the phone — after 19 calls and a 45-minute wait.

Even though Centrelink regularly warns people on social media not to share personal information, such as their income, Patrick said he felt compelled to do it because he was “desperate for some way to report [his] income to them without waiting on hold for 45 minutes”.

A quick look at Centrelink’s Twitter feed suggests these kinds of interactions are very common, raising the question: what exactly is the point of Centrelink’s Twitter account?

Update:  In a statement provided to Junkee a Department of Human Services spokesperson said “Every month the Department of Human Services provides an average 6,000 responses to social media queries, rising to 11,500 per month in peak periods. We know that 65 per cent of recipients whose questions are answered on social media do not phone or visit a service centre about the same issue afterwards.

“Protecting personal information is of paramount importance and we treat our commitment to privacy very seriously. Details shared with the department are often more sensitive than information shared with other organisations that interact with people on social media.

“This is why our staff answering social media enquiries do not have access to individuals’ records. We actively discourage people from sharing personal information, like Centrelink customer reference numbers, on social media.”

The department also insisted it was “a leader in Australian Government social media strategy”.