02 Jul HMRC moves to improve customer service
For the last number of years, HMRC has been undertaking measures to improve their response times and improve service standards in call centres. Statistics have recently been published for 2014/15 and show that whilst 73% of calls were answered last year the service standards were inconsistent, with some months falling well short of HMRC’s 80% target. The figures also showed that at times as many as one in five callers heard an engaged tone and were unable to even join a phone queue. That means that a staggering 18 million calls to HMRC were unanswered or left on hold.
To help improve services, HMRC has announced that they are to invest £45m to improve customer service. The money is coming from HMRC’s current spending settlement and is not additional revenue from the Treasury. The money will be used to cover the cost of paying for the recruitment of around 3,000 additional staff this year and for allocating around 2,000 staff from other HMRC business areas to help cope with the high call volumes in the run-up to the tax credits deadline on 31 July.
The figures show that HMRC receives more than 60m calls a year, peaking around key deadlines such as 31 January for Self Assessment, and 31 July for tax credits renewals. The closure of many HMRC’s offices up and down the country has also resulted in higher call volumes to HMRC.
Lin Homer, HMRC chief executive, accepted that standards had not been good enough and outlined the actions that HMRC has already taken to improve customer service, including recruitment and investment in technology.
Ms Homer said:
'Despite our best efforts, our call performance hasn’t been up to scratch and we apologise to all those customers who have struggled to get through to us.
Good customer service is an absolute priority for HMRC. We set ourselves the target to answer 80 per cent of calls, to provide a more consistent level of service across the year and to reduce peaks and troughs in service levels between busy and quieter times.'
HMRC has also invested in new telephone equipment that allows calls to be switched between different offices (not just call centres) at the busiest times. HMRC is urging more taxpayers to use online services rather than dealing with HMRC over the phone.