Providing excellent client service is fundamental to AGS's operations. Our Client Care Principles are part of the AGS culture. Each year our corporate plan has included activities to enhance staff understanding of client service and improve practical skills to better support our clients. This year we focused on being cost- conscious, accessible, reliable and easy to work with.

Operating in a contestable, highly competitive market for the past 15 years has made AGS very client-focused and contributed significantly to our market share and leading position in the external government legal service market. This will continue as we become a self-funded commercial operation within AGD.

The benefits of our client-focused approach were reflected in a 96% client satisfaction rating achieved in this year's client survey. We undertake client surveys each year to help us better understand client needs. They give us a regular opportunity to review overall satisfaction levels, ask how our clients rate us in comparison to other service providers, and find out which aspects of our service they are happy with, and in which areas we need to improve.

The survey was run in February, using an online questionnaire. More than 1,370 people from 94 agencies were invited to participate. The consultants delivered their report in April, with very positive overall findings. Client satisfaction levels were very high, with 96% of respondents indicating they were satisfied with AGS's performance and 71% giving AGS a rating of 8 or more out of 10. Our performance on 12 of the 13 attributes canvassed improved. The only one which did not improve was 'provides accurate estimates', which remained static.

Notably, 43% of respondents considered AGS's overall performance to be excellent. This compared favourably with our 2013 survey, in which 29% rated us at such a high level. The consultants advised that this was an outstanding result.

In addition, 70% of clients said we understand their business better than our competitors do, with 64% saying we have better quality relationships (largely due to our excellent Client Service Managers). The survey also showed 55% of clients felt our legal expertise was better than our competitors and 41% said we were more cost-conscious than our competitors.

Although the Client Survey was highly positive, it raised some issues that need to be addressed as part of our focus on continuously improving client service. Practice groups and Client Services subsequently carried out detailed analysis of the survey to identify areas for improvement. These are to be considered in the annual business planning process.

The surveys help inform our activities for the coming year. This year we initiated a client listening program, which began with a national training course on managing difficult client conversations. CMA Learning provided the training and their principal consultant addressed the AGS Leaders Conference in October to discuss the topic more broadly with senior staff.

An internal blog by Chief Operating Officer Louise Vardanega gave the program an ongoing profile throughout the year. Other activities included publication of client feedback on the intranet and encouraging staff – including through performance agreements – to have regular contact with clients, to gather feedback and better understand their requirements.

This is an extract from the 2014–15 AGS annual report