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HMRC call centre must improve

Posted on Mar 29 2010
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In a House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts ‘HM Revenue and Customs: Handling Telephone Enquiries’ report MPs said the department should be responding to more calls made to the tax man but that it is not being helped by having 139 telephone numbers.

In 2008–09, the HMRC answered only 57% of the 103million calls to its main helplines, compared to an industry standard of 95%. Callers waited on average two minutes, and nearly four minutes in peak periods to speak to an advisor.

Contact centre staff spent only 38% of their time handling calls against an industry benchmark of 60%.

HMRC set a target to answer more than 90% of calls by March 2012, but this is short of best practice – which is 95%.

The report said: ‘It could do more to reduce the confusion caused by having 139 telephone numbers and to reduce the costs of calling the department.

‘Around 6.8million calls failed the department’s accuracy checks in 2008–09 because advisors did not follow the department’s guidance and procedures, but the department does not know how often the advice it provides by telephone is actually incorrect.’

MPs also want call centre staff to be more efficient ‘by eliminating the 11% of time that is by spent by advisors waiting for calls and in reducing levels of sickness absence’.

The report makes seven recommendations, which include:
-    Answering 95% of calls
-    Answer calls quicker
-    Reduce the amount of telephone numbers it has
-    Extend its call-back service
-    Reduce the number of calls that fail accuracy standards
-    Call centre staff should be more efficient
-    Reduce avoidable calls – 35% of calls made to department are avoidable

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said: “If an organisation wants more of its customers to contact it by telephone, then it has got to be good at answering calls. HMRC unfortunately is not very good at answering calls, its performance remaining well below industry best practice standards.

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