User satisfaction survey
User: For full report – http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/reports-and-publications/reports/2015/report-fluss-2015
The report is a worthwhile read for lawyers, their clients and self-represented litigants.
Foreword from the Chief Executive Officer
“I am very proud to present this report containing an analysis of results from our last court(s) user satisfaction survey.
This initiative is one element of our integrated commitment to the International Framework for Court Excellence. The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia can reasonably claim to be international leaders in the implementation of this framework, having each undertaken extensive internal assessments on all aspects of court and judicial administration.
As well, the Courts have repeatedly sought the views of court users and been open to feedback, and at times criticism, with respect to services. This openness to the public and to those people who rely on our Courts, has made us innovative, responsive and willing to embrace change.
It is striking data that over 77% of people attending our courts report overall satisfaction with their experience. This is an impressive result when we deal in family conflict, bankruptcy, migration, human rights matters – all of which can be highly adversarial and are matters acutely relevant to a person’s life and future.
It is notable that the majority of people surveyed reported that our staff are knowledgeable, respectful and helpful. It is also a signal of public confidence in our courts, that the majority of those surveyed report that they were treated fairly in Court and that everyone was treated the same.
I have asked our Registry Managers and our other senior executives to carefully digest the results and to look to any improvements which we can reasonably make in 2016 while also preserving our considerable strengths.
Richard Foster PSM FAIM
Chief Executive Officer
Family Court of Australia
Federal Circuit Court of Australia”
The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia have adopted the International Framework for Court Excellence.1 In the search for ‘excellence’, the court users’ perspective is central. One way to understand the views and experience of the court user is examination of results and feedback from user satisfaction surveys. A survey was conducted in 2011 nationally and then repeated by the courts in 2014. The results of the 2014 survey are presented in this report.
The survey process was undertaken with the support of the judiciary and senior management. The courts extend their appreciation to the students and volunteers who assisted with the survey and the registry operations staff who coordinated the process. We also extend our thanks to the litigants, lawyers and others who took the time to complete the survey.
The 2014 Court User Satisfaction Survey involved 13 family law registries and was aimed at users in both courts in respect of family law, and general federal law in the Federal Circuit Court. Volunteers, mostly students from university law faculties, interviewed 1437 court users. Legal practitioners were also invited to complete the survey online if they preferred and this provided a further 282 responses.
The questionnaire has qualitative and quantitative elements and consists of 43 substantive questions. Through this survey, the data include demographic details such as age, gender, income, language, education and marital status (for those other than lawyers and paralegals). These questions enabled the development of a profile of the interviewees and therefore a context for survey results. In the event, these demographic variables were not found to be significantly determinative of interviewees’ court experience.
The survey included other research variables which were influential upon the interviewee’s level of satisfaction with their court experience:
- role of the interviewee whether lawyer, applicant or respondent
- whether the interviewee was legally represented
- frequency of visits to the courts – first time, several times or regular visitor to the courts, and
- type and age of proceedings e.g. divorce proceedings, final/ interim orders or other matter.
The final part of the survey included questions to identify how satisfied interviewees were with their experiences attending the court buildings and engaging with the variety of court services and events.
Overall, interviewees were very complimentary with 77 per cent expressing satisfaction with their visit to the courts
Those who were most likely to be familiar with the courts and their procedures, that is, those for whom being at the courts was a part of their day-to-day role, were more likely to be satisfied with their experience overall. So, lawyers were generally more satisfied than either applicants or the respondents.
The results of the survey highlighted a number of areas in which the courts performed extremely well. These were:
- court buildings were easy to find and navigate
- felt safe in the courtroom or court environment, and
- treatment by staff was professional and respectful and queries were answered promptly.
Despite the courts’ overall high levels of satisfaction, there were several areas of potential improvement identified. These included:
- time the matter took
- start times
- clarity as to what was to happen on the day, and
- National Enquiry Centre.
Overall, taking account of the results across the board, the survey results consistently indicated that lawyers were the most satisfied, respondents least satisfied and applicants were somewhere in the middle. The only exception was in respect of the NEC where lawyers were the least satisfied group.
Better management of expectations about day in court
The survey responses indicated that there were several aspects of the experience of the interviewee in court on the day, which could be improved. More than a quarter of court users wanted to be better informed about when their particular matter would start and how long it would take. They wanted to understand what was expected of them and what the next steps would be.
Another of the areas identified for improvement can be summarised as the way the courts communicate with court users and provide information and support. Court users, particularly the applicants and respondents, indicated they would like more simplified forms, more user friendly e-filing procedures and websites, improved access to the courts’ telephone enquiry service and timely advice about what happens at court.
The survey results indicated that of all court users, respondents are least satisfied with their experiences at court. While this result is somewhat intuitive, given the nature of litigation, the courts could explore what action may be taken to improve the experience and perceptions of the respondent in family law proceedings.
Overall, the level of court user satisfaction indicated by the results from this 2014 survey is high particularly when one considers that people are in the courts at a low point in their lives (such as separation, family law dispute, migration and bankruptcy). The survey identified some issues of concern to court users and the courts have the opportunity to improve in those areas.
These 2014 survey results build on the 2011 results and will further the courts’ understanding of court user views and experience.