The Truth About Centrelink’s Waiting Times [Infographic]

The Truth About Centrelink’s Waiting Times [Infographic]

Senior staff from the Department of Human Services told Senate estimates on March 2 that the average wait time to speak to a Centrelink operator is 14 minutes and 10 seconds. But this doesn’t match with most people’s experiences of calling Centrelink.

As it turns out, what’s not included in the reported wait time is probably more important than what is.

The Department of Human Services reported at Senate estimates that so far this financial year (up to January 31) 28 million calls received a busy signal, and more than 4 million calls were abandoned while waiting on the line. A spokesperson for the department said that it would not go into detail beyond what was offered at estimates at this time. So, it’s not possible to know whether there has been a surge in calls overall on the current data.

But it is clear that more people are struggling to get through than ever before.

We’ve created this graphic – based on new data from 2015-16 calls confirmed by the Department of Human Services – to explain what’s really going on when Centrelink says its wait time is under 16 minutes. And you can read an analysis piece by Paul Henman on the issue here.

The Conversation, CC BY-ND

The Conversation

Wes Mountain, Deputy Multimedia Editor, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


  • Something seems very very fishy about these numbers, 39 million answered calls in a year, divided by the number of work days because they don’t operate weekends which is somewhere around 260, equals 150,000 calls a day, if there are 500 call centre operators that means that each operator is taking 246 calls a day.

    Something about this doesn’t seem feasible.

      • Nope, i believe they are just pulling numbers out their arse to make it seem that Centrelink are doing something that’s working.

        The only time you can get through to CL is within the first hour of them opening but not guaranteed for a quick answer.

    • Anyone who hung up on the automated service were counted as answered in the figures, and any time someone was transferred from one person to another it was counted again for each transfer. There is a lot of double/triple/+ counting in their numbers.

      • Darrel – do you have a source for that information? Nowhere here does it state those things. Typically ACD reporting would not count a call that abandoned (or even was resolved) in the IVR as “handled”.
        Calls that are transferred to an alternative queue would indeed be counted twice as both offered and handled.

    • Luke – it seems infeasible based on the assumption of 500 current employees in the contact centre. Do you have any source for that number? I would imagine it is a great deal larger.

  • I’ve had to call Centrelink at least 10 times in the past 6 months, and the SHORTEST wait time I had from reaching the automated system, to talking to a person, was 45 mins.
    The longest was 92. A few times, I had been waiting for 40+ mins to speak to the first person, only to find out that my call was picked up by someone in a different department, despite me CHOOSING the correct one, which meant I got shoved back in the queue for another 40+ mins….

    • That was my experience too during my last period of unemployment. Every call was over an hour on hold, and even going in to the office required 20 minutes in the line to tell them why I was there, then another hour waiting for someone to call my name. They’re greatly understaffed to try to cut costs and it’s resulted in atrocious service.

  • I retired a couple of years ago and had the misfortune to have to go to the Hobart Centrelink office. Here’s how it went.

    I had to queue to enter the building, then queue up to be “triaged”, and then, I kid you not, I had to make an appointment to make and appointment. The reason I was told is that only certain staff have the training to make appointments for the financial consultants.

    I said surely it’s just a matter of setting up an electronic diary appointment, if you like I can train your people to do that in about 10 minutes.

  • I was on hold for over 4hrs today. On Monday, I was on hold for over 2hrs but I had to give up on the call.

  • What the stats presented don’t show is that to meet the KPI of time to call answered, centrelink use casual, poorly trained or ….whoever has time to answer regardless of expertise area….to ensure the KPI of 16 minutes is met. VERY, Very often the first person answering can’t deal with the business of the call and puts them back into a call queue for an service area expert. The second call queues are often much longer than time to first answer queues. However this doesn’t affect performance against the time to first answer KPI.
    It is also worth asking how many times in the last 5 years the time to first call answer KPI has been extended…..who picks 16 minutes?
    The people calling are often reliant on welfare and using mobile phone credit. Who can afford these call lengths? Wouldn’t a 1800 number be appropriate in the circumstances?
    Centrelink need a change of management!

  • I’d also wager a lot of people who wait for extended periods give up, and hence aren’t counted in the ASA. Frankly people should be jumping up and down more about that abandonment rate, including the fact that there system ever gets so overloaded some people don’t even hit the IVR…

    As an ex-call centre manager, I’d have been shot if any of the lines I managed had stats like that.

  • absolutely shocking service…. and post about it on the MSMedia and it will get deleted

  • Centrelink LIES. The wait time is always more than 30 minutes, the staff numbers have been cut, many calls are cut short, many times the information requested is incorrect, and different answers are given by different staff members.
    A friend and neighbour was recently made redundant.
    Department Of Human Services trading as Centrelink is a private corporation with an Australian Business Number.
    Department of Human Services ABN 90 794 605 008.
    The Commonwealth Of Australia is a private corporation with an ABN, as are the States and Territories Of Australia, the Local City Councils Of Australia, Australia Post and thousands of government departments, once owned by the citizens of Australia are private corporations with an ABN.
    ABN Lookup —

  • I wish it was 16 minutes or even half an hour. Trying to sort out family assistance, I have been on hold twice for over an hour, gave up because I had to go and do other things ( pick up kids etc). I have time today ( sort of) so now seeing it through I am up to 1 hour and 34 minutes still counting.

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