One year on and Human Services clients are still tearing their hair out in frustration over the Department’s dysfunctional, bug-ridden mobile apps.
According to user reviews, the three main apps — Express Plus Centrelink, Express Plus Medicare and Express Plus Child Support — are still giving users headaches and holding up benefit payments and Medicare claims.
Government News covered this sorry state of affairs in March last year and it appears few improvements have been made over the last 12 months. The same problems continue to occur and many customers remain disenchanted.
Apps designed to save time for customers and DHS staff end up driving people to despair and into their nearest DHS office or phone queue, twice as frustrated as before.
The Centrelink app was probably the most complained about of the three apps, with many reviewers hitting their caps lock and exclamation marks to vent their spleen. It is also probably the most heavily used, by students, job seekers, seniors and families to update family income estimates, report wages and update study details.
The most frequently mentioned gripes – using only current reviews from February to April 2016 – were:
- Log-in problems
- Long loading times
- Difficulties reporting earnings or hours or updating personal details
- Bugs in the registration screen, where users could not see the whole password they entered (Tip: if your password is longer than 8 characters keep typing then hit submit)
- Frequent crashing
- Poor layout
- No notices about maintenance or outages
Customers had some choice words for the Department and its apps and many people were upset that they could not use the app to report their earnings or their hours.
One Centrelink customer said: “It’s constantly down. Hopeless app. Hopeless system that keeps referring us to use the broken app. How is it that a department that so many people have to report to keeps getting it wrong?”
Another said: “Tells me to report. Tells me I have not reported. The list goes on.”
One enterprising wag suggested drug-addled rodents would do a better job: “Warning to anyone who plans to download this app: don’t, it will not let you report. A hamster on speed could report for you better. FFS!”
“Had to spend an hour on the phone just to report my earnings because this app wouldn’t let me. Should have had this running properly before shutting down the job seeker’s app, which worked perfectly fine!!! Doesn’t even deserve one star!!! NOT HAPPY,” said another unsatisfied customer.
Some people complained that they were not allowed to report their income until after the reporting date, at which time the app informed them they were too late: “Constantly down, won’t let me report yet tells me daily I’m overdue for reporting.”
More seriously, some people said they had missed their benefit payments because of glitches in the app.
“Says report has been submitted but not processed and I haven’t been paid. Will have to spend hours on the phone. Grr,” one frustrated person said.
Another had also missed out on payments: “Not sure Centrelink are getting my updates for the past month. I updated my study twice. Now I’ve missed out two fortnights of payments so I’ll be expecting back pay. Says my claim is incomplete so I click on it and it won’t do anything. I’m going to have to go into office and get it sorted.”
One Express Plus Centrelink user said: “If DHS employees had these many hoops and roundabouts to get paid there’d be a senate inquiry. Alan Tudge sir, you suck!”
There were a few words of cold comfort for Human Services, “Yeah, not bad. Considering that this is a government app it appears to work ok.”
“App has improved recently and is really helpful” and “very well laid out application. Easy to report my income using the timesheet option.”
Express Plus Medicare
The Express Plus Medicare app, which can be used to claim Medicare benefits and view information such as immunisation records and your Medicare Safety Net balance, came in for a bit of a serve too.
Claimants reported difficulty installing and opening the app, constant crashing and over-compressing images of photographed documents so that claims could not be read or processed.
“Can’t even take clear photo of invoice through app (photo is pixelated). What is the point if we can’t take a clear picture? This app is really terrible. Please get your act together and stop wasting the taxpayers’ money and produce an app that functions as it should. The government wants us to use these news tools to innovate but can’t even write a simple app!”
“Stupid app is stupid. When are claimants going to be able to claim Medicare rebates easily?”
One Medicare user said it took him four attempts to claim resulting in him receiving a Medicare letter by post demanding more information: “this app is so buggy it makes going to a Medicare office the quick and easy option.”
“Even giving it one star is favouring it. The most useless app ever.”
“The level of suckyness (sic) of this app is unending.”
“Your stupid app only crashes and your staff insist I use it and won’t help me in person.”
“What a convoluted process to try and make a claim. Linking accounts, have a My Gov account, need a user names, password, secret questions, PIN! Need to go to the My Gov website, will not accept personal details! Dozens of prompts in help section! You cannot be serious about citizens using this app!”
Express Child Support
There were similar but fewer rotten tomato reviews for the Department’s child support app, with users complaining about loading problems, log-in difficulties, limited functionality and not being able to load documents.
One said: “Worst app of all time … doesn’t ever load. Need to check apps before u (sic) make them available.”
“This app has never opened since I installed it. It keeps saying “unfortunately child support has stopped working. EVERY SINGLE TIME I OPEN IT!!” This app won’t log in at all.”
“So far it’s still downloading and has been for five and a half hours.”
An app developer’s view
App developer Danny Gorog from Outware took a look at the Express Plus apps and gave Government News his verdict, one year on from his last comments.
Mr Gorog, who is currently designing apps for Transport NSW, said he could see little improvement since he last reviewed the apps for Government News in March 2015.
He said the user interface (UI) remained very complicated.
“It’s a non-native app … it feels very clunky and it feels like a situation that no-one is really taking seriously,” Mr Gorog said.
“I’m sure they’ve spent a lot of money on it but it feels like it has been built as a cross-platform app, using the same code for Android and Apple.”
He was also heavily critical of the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities, such as vision impairment.
“Apple and Google have very strict accessibility guidelines so people with disabilities won’t find it hard to use. The accessibility and the UI should be thought through.
“I had a look at it and I’m disappointed,” he said. “It needs to conform to iOS and Android guidelines of how apps should look and work on the platform and this doesn’t conform to any of them. I would be building native code.”
Mr Gorog said those responsible for developing the app needed to trawl through customer complaints and start fixing things.
“The truth is that it’s often hard for government. They’ve got a budget for app development for the year. The number is normally too low and the government wants cheaper solutions.
“[they might say] “we are over budget and you can’t spend any more.”
Response from Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen (in full)
Government News sought comment from Human Services regarding the user experience and performance of the department’s apps. Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen said:
“The multiple award winning Express Plus mobile apps continue to be a highly popular way for our customers to self-manage their routine business with the department, with the number of downloads approaching 7 million as of February 2016.
“As technology evolves, we continue to make enhancements to our mobile apps to ensure they remain world class and continue to provide superior digital access to services for our customers.
“We’ve added new functionality like booking appointments and Income Management to enable our customers to use mobile apps for more services. Further improvements are planned for next financial year and will be communicated to customers when they become live.
“Our apps have proven to be hugely popular with our customers and demand continues to grow with more than two million new app downloads and more than 54 million transactions made using the apps in the 2015-16 financial year to date. At any one time we have an average of 80,000 concurrent connections through our gateway.
“All customer complaints and feedback made through our feedback channels are responded to in accordance with the DHS complaints and feedback policy. While we do monitor customer feedback on iTunes and Google Play, we do not respond to comments, leave reviews or post information in the reviews section.
“We work as one digital team across the Department and in close collaboration with the Digital Transformation Office. This approach ensures all digital products are developed in multi-disciplinary teams that include insights from technologists, specialist, and frontline staff and often directly from our customers as well. This ensures an end-to-end solution approach and greater uptake.”
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