Services Australia - ‘Money You Owe’

In April 2020 the Australian Government implemented a six-month pause on a broad range of social welfare debt raising and recovery activities to ease pressure on people’s budgets during the coronavirus pandemic.

Services Australia (the Agency) deals with overpayments and debt in a way that is responsive to individual circumstances, while meeting the Agency’s legal obligation to recover the debt. Money You Owe is a service that allows customers to view and update details relating to their Centrelink debts. In July 2020, the Agency began planning for the future recommencement of debt raising and recovery activities, including taking the opportunity to improve the customer experience by making debt related services more simple, helpful, respectful and transparent.

The Agency made enhancements to the Money You Owe service to improve the customer experience and achieve improved debt recovery outcomes by:

  • Changing the way customers navigate Centrelink Online, making it easier for them to locate the service.
    • In practical terms this meant moving the Money You Owe service to the front page of the Centrelink Online account, when previously it took 11 clicks to navigate to the Money You Owe service.
    • This has resulted in an increase in visits to the Money You Owe service per day, averaging a little under 100,000 visits per day since 1 February 2021. Previously the service averaged around 25,000 visits per day.
  • Providing new functionality to make it easier for customers to make a new arrangement and allowing them to adjust their existing arrangements.
    • From February 2021 to December 2021, over 850,000 customers have made or adjusted payment arrangements through Money You Owe.

To complement the improvements to the Money You Owe service, the Agency commenced using SMS messaging on 1 February 2021 to ‘nudge’ customers to actively manage their debts. Prior to the nudge messages being deployed, 13% of customers took proactive action to repay their debt. Since the deployment of nudge messages, around 50% of customers are now taking proactive action, with most of those customers using digital channels to make debt repayments.

Improvements have also been made to the Centrelink Online App and Interactive Voice Response technologies to enable customers to complete activities such as managing their payment arrangements, without the need to talk to a service officer. Customers receive personalised debt messages when they authenticate over the phone using their voiceprint, with services presented so customers can use open speech technology to either pay off their debt in full or set up debt repayments. 

Service improvements have provided customers with more options for managing their debt with Services Australia, including the ability to set up their own affordable repayment arrangements and viewing their details online at any time. As well as improving the customer experience, these improvements have improved debt recovery outcomes and reduced debt recovery costs.