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HMRC criticised over customer service performance

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HMRC criticised over customer service performance

A report into customer service performance of HM Revenue and Customs has ruled that the department offers poor value for money for customers. The report, carried out by the National Audit Office, did suggest that HMRC has made some recent improvements in answering calls from the public, but also highlighted that customers still have to wait too long for calls to be answered and calls still cost too much.

Customer satisfaction of HMRC call handling reached an all time low in 2010 when phone calls increased because of problems with new National Insurance and PAYE systems. HMRC has since employed 2,500 temporary staff and updated phone technology which has dealt with the backlogs from this period.

The National Audit Office’s report shows that, although HMRC beat their temporary target to answer at least 58 per cent of phone calls in 2011-12, 20 million calls were still not answered.

Currently HMRC staff seem as though they are improving their handling of postal queries but have not been consistent in improving call handling. October 2012, though, has given HMRC its best monthly performance in answering calls since December 2009, seeing 91 per cent of calls being answered.

282 seconds was the average time customers who got through to HMRC in 2011-12 had to wait to speak to an adviser. Between April and September 2011, 6.5 million customers had to wait over ten minutes for their call to be connected to someone. Many customers, depending on which phone company they use, are charged for a phone call from the moment it is connected, despite the fact they may be in a queue. According to the National Audit Office, the estimated cost of call charges whilst customers are held in a queue waiting to speak to someone at HMRC is £33 million. The estimated worth of customers’ time whilst in these queues has been valued at £103 million.

The high call costs, as well as being attributed to the length of the wait for a call to be answered, can also be associated with the fact that most of HMRC’s numbers are still expensive 0845 numbers. HMRC state that they are investigating alternative telephone contracts and hope to save customers money by replacing 0845 numbers with cheaper 03 numbers.


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