HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Hanging on The Telephone - Discipline

Hanging on The Telephone - Discipline
Following on from my earlier article about pressure being put upon on those working in HMRC Call Centres to minimise the time that they spend on each call, I am advised that it is now getting to the point where some of the less experienced HMRC staff are hanging up on callers, rather than look the answers up.

For why?

They fear the disciplinary action threatened by HMRC for those who spend too long on a call.

HMRC "management" need to ask themselves is a culture of fear and bullying really the best way to get the most from the staff, or to provide a "world class" customer service?

Tax does have to be taxing.

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17 comments:

  1. Ha ha ha ... loved the "I don't like Mondays" clip. This government department has always been a shambles. I used to be an advice worker and they were always a nightmare to deal with and my friends still in that sector say nothing has changed. Keep up the good work! (You're on my Bookmarks)

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  2. The topic of HMRC management ruling by a policy of fear and bullying has been explored in a number of posts already and I will re-iterate what I have already said: there is a Stasi like campaign of terror and intimidation by IR management, creating an atmosphere where hard working and conscientious officers are increasingly frightened of coming to work because of the danger of being picked out and victimised for any number of trivial offences, the prime one of which is to forget to fill in the latest pointless spreadsheet by close of business on such and such a day.

    No honest worker can hope to flourish and give of their best in such an environment, but management refuses to admit that there is a problem - and as another comments poster has pointed out, you really should see the myriad of happy smiling faces in the in-house magazine - you would think that morale was through the roof, not in the other direction!

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  3. Ah, but this doesn't just happen to customers of HMRC, it also happens to staff.

    The other day, I was having difficulty figuring out how to claim a particular item of T&S (Travel and Subsistence) after working away.

    Our internal guidance was, as usual, absolutely useless so I phoned the HR Service Centre. After waiting for fifteen minutes and ignoring the automated voice repeatedly telling me that I'd be better off e-mailing (a 10-working day turnaround for an answer? I don't bloody think so!) I spoke to a chap, explained the complicated situation and, without a word, he promptly hung up on me because the question was too difficult for him to answer!

    Cue me calling again, waiting another fifteen minutes, speaking to someone else and being told that he didn't know the answer but would forward it to the T&S team. The expected timescale for a response? 10 working days.

    To their credit, they actually e-mailed me back within 2 days.

    With the wrong answer.

    Piss-poor customer service isn't just restricted to our external customers you know...

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  4. You know the most unfotunate thing about this is that not enough HMRC staff know about this website/blog. I would bet my shirt that 99% of the staff have stories that would make the toes curl! Yet if you read the propoganda on the Intranet............ we are valued stuff doing such a great job. Keeck!Has anyone else been instructed to leave a notice on their desk when they leave to say " Out of office"? All the staff are required to comply......... but managers aren't? Smacks of............

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  5. What about the latest outrage? From the last Love In (phone in) Contact Centre Staff have been instructed to answer calls before they have even logged on to the numerous systems COP/SA/CAG to cut down the call times. How the hell can we provide a service when you are unable to access all the data? When Excom members heard the call, one could only say that they shat themselves " I don't know what you are talking about" We will look into this and get back to you. The place is being run by amateurs

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  6. Better information on the websites might mean less use of call centres is needed. Although some of it is reasonably easy to find and well structured, some is not.

    Have you ever looked for current rates for capital allowances for example? This should have a clear link from business/corporation tax but it doesn't. Nowadays, I generally rely on a google search and hope those helpful accounting sites have got it right.

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  7. Have you ever looked for current rates for capital allowances for example? This should have a clear link from business/corporation tax but it doesn't. Nowadays, I generally rely on a google search and hope those helpful accounting sites have got it right.

    We do but try!

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  8. In returning to the original point, ie "Hanging on the telephone - discipline" this is yet further proof of management's total inability to think things through and consider the consequences of their short-sighted actions. Instead of making things better their great big ideas end up with the Mandarins shooting themselves in the foot. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen management do this in just about everything they do. Not so much the Midas Touch... more like everything they touch turns to dust. It makes a complete mockery of their management "skills". They are hoist with their own petard... but as always they blame the "little people" when it all goes tits up.

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  9. I used to enjoy my job in C&E but since the Inland Revenue takeover work is now a depressing mix of constant fear, bullying, spreadsheets and watching my back because the "new" management distrust their own staff more than the non-compliant "customers" we are supposed to be dealing with. One false move (the audit trail is ruthless and takes no account of inadvertent actions) and you are deemed guilty, and it's goodnight career and goodbye pension.

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  10. Would have thought working in C&E you had a clearer idea of what you were doing too. VAT was always fairly rational and even us "customers" could understand it. Tax on the other hand...

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  11. "HMRC "management" need to ask themselves is a culture of fear and bullying really the best way to get the most from the staff"...

    A picture was published in the HMRC mag a while back which showed "the perfect lean enviroment" at a Toyota factory. There was not one human in the pic, all work was being done by robots which is pretty much what Lean Working wants to turn us humanoids into!! Our managers no longer have time to sit with staff and train/consolidate new working practices (which change almost daily) as they are constantly taking "production figures", hourly in our case, and then updating whiteboards with meaningless stats; by the time they’ve done this it’s time to start again. we have senior managers on a salary we can only dream of coming from all over the country to make sure our desks are tidy!!! And, if we have any IT problems we have to phone a privately-run help desk who get paid an exhorbitant sum for every phonecall and when as usually happens they can’t solve the problem it’s passed to the guys in our local office who we used to phone direct and they fix the prob. The standard working instructions we have for processing are a joke. We have "problem-solving meetings" to rectify these which takes months to pass this "efficient" system and the solution is usually to go back to the way we used to do it before the introduction of Lean. Our post on hand figures are worse now than BL (before Lean) but sickness absence has gone down but only because people come into work when they really should be at home in bed. Because of the new way in which absences are managed they’re scared to take time off in case they lose their job. This means illnesses are spread to other staff who in turn still come in perpetuating a climate of coughing, sneezing and totally demoralised staff, but according to those upon high this is a great benefit of the Lean system which is a great success so that must be why over 90% of staff involved in lean voted to take industrial action??

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  12. “Tax Needn’t be Taxing” we are told… unless, that is, you are one of the unfortunate “units” working at the coalface of Gordon "Smiler" Brown’s HMRC processing offices. "Units", allegedly, is HMRC management terminology for "employees".

    The poor sods working at the processing centre in Lothian have the unenviable task of dealing with a backlog of millions of outstanding open cases as well as the mountains of work that Gordo’s Tax Credit system has introduced.

    In his short spell as chairman of HMRC, David Varney, was tasked with overseeing a cut of 12500 units. He introduced a system called LEAN. LEAN is essentially a statistical whip that has introduced a corporate bullying culture to HMRC. Staff progress is held up for all to see at oppressive, often hourly, team meetings where new, impossible targets are set.

    Unsurprisingly, staff are leaving in droves while many departments have a ban on recruitment. The resulting understaffing is described as “horrific”. It was described to me as a “sweatshop environment” and a "Victorian style workhouse". And what of staff morale... you can guess the rest

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  13. PCS our trade union has recently recommended an offer on lean which does not go far enough to alay the staffs fears. Indeed most of the offers by the Dept. will only be discussed after any yes vote is achieved. LEAN fails to take into account that everyone is different. It fails to take into account peoples individuality, experience and medical problems/needs such as RSI. At a recent meeting we were told that the dept(ex-com) would look to withdraw flexi time arrangements and not speak to the union on future big issues such as the up and coming replacement for cop (the PAYE system) unless there was a yes vote thus trying to blackmail both PCS (who seem to have fallen for it) and the staff who hopefully have not. The real truth about LEAN is that millions of pounds have been spent on a system that does not and connot work. It has failed to deliver the efficiency savings promissed by Unipart.We simply do not have enough staff to deal with the work load irrespective of what work method you want to call it.. LEAN has deskilled Inland Revenue staff and made their jobs boring. From dealing with all aspects of work i.e. phone calls, post open cases and tax returns, to now dealing with only one aspect of this work. On tax returns, We have been set targets both on quality and quantity that are unachievable, These targets were based on figures taken useing tax returns that were hand picked for their simplicity and before other time consuming methods were introduced to the process. Several timings have been done on tax returns since the original timings, that the targets are based on. The latest timings which were taken on a team of staff on a daily basis for a week only for these figures to be “lost”. The LEAN consultant who took the figures was in the territorial army and was recently posted to IRAQ. Did she take these figures with her? Technical guidance and systems such as the system we use for issueing a code to a customer are changed somtimes on a weekly basis and it is difficult to take in all the technical and changing information. This guidance is often prepared by staff who have not worked in the process and somtimes have little or no knowledge of it. Quality and quantity figures are collected on an hourly basis and put on a white board. You have to indicate each hour as to why/if you have failed to meet the hourly target. Daily meetings take place around these white boards which you have to attend and stand up straight no slouching or sitting down as this is frowned upon be senior managers. Managers manipulate the system to show that LEAN is working because of fear of what senior management will say/do or for the fact that they are looking to gain promotion to escape the brutality of LEAN. Staff like me at the AA and AO Grades have been and continue to be treated like naughty school children who do not want to come to work and when they do, do not want to do any work. This is far from the truth hard working underpaid staff, when compared to say accountants have kept the Dept. afloat for years through major upheaval and change. Staff with any comments contradicting the LEAN doctorine are diliberatly kept away from speaking to people who visit the office. Returns can be failed by quality managers for minor things such as mispelling an employers name and for things that do not affect a persons tax bill. So a whole return can fail because lets say out of 18 aspects a quality manager checks only one thing may be wrong and this may not have any tax consequences or anything that a taxpayer…sorry customer may recieve….So the whole tax return fails. There is also inconsistancy in quality managers and what they fail staff and therefore the return on. When you get someting wrong you are told in front of the rest of your team this has the effect of demotivating staff and is in my opinion a form of bullying. We have managers on £30k plus coming along and checking on whether your desk complies the dept 5 s’s ie pens rulers etc all have to be in a certain place. The same manages own desks quite often would fail their own checks but of course they do not check thier own desks. Only one photo is allowed and this must be taken off your desk when you leave the office unless you are a senior grade of course. They also tell you off for having your coat on the back of your chair. The sad part about it for many of us satff at grades AA and AO is that these are the same managers who have consistantly failed to deliver the results whatever system has been in place over the years. surely the private sector would have sacked these people years ago. We are encouraged to participate in suggesting ways of improving the LEAN process. But this is controlled and you can only discuss things that can be solved i.e. if you suggest improvements to the IT system or suggest that you have been deskilled or that the job is boring you are met with the response from senior management that “there is nothing we can do about that” Next week we are putting more people on processing returns than is allowed in the standard solution ( the LEAN bible). We are told that this is to meet customer need. In recent years other departments have helped out but they are doing other jobs other than their own so are unable to help. The LEAN open case team are not dealing with open cases potentially delaying the issue of both repayments of tax and notification of underpaid tax. Instead they are dealing with post coming in from customers not only from our office but from other offices who all under LEAN are in a mess. So LEAN is working if you are a senior manager or a memmber of excom or the Government..But this is far from the truth and continues to be covered up. Staff are stressed and forced to work in a system that does not work and are slapped down if they speak out. Experienced staff are leaving in their hundreds each month because of LEAN which is of course a big part of what the Dept/Govt wants. What price to both the taxpayer and the country. After all HMRC is now run by a majority of people (ex-com)who have come from outside big business and have no concept or knowledge of how the tax and customs system works. If you can run a parks dept. or mobile phone company you can run HMRC.. cna’t you???? if you don’t believe me have a look at the make up of ex-com which is available on the internet. I suspect having failed in thier roles in HMRC or not depending on your views. in the future a lot of these people will return to the private sector to reap the benefits sowed in the favour of big business whilst overseeing HMRC.

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  14. I have read these comments with interest as I am a partner of somebody who works in one of the HMRC call centers. I have had to endure years of my partner suffering from the type of abuse described here and watched them slowly loose all confidence in themselves. They where recently very ill and the support from the call center management is to inform them that they may be dismissed because of the time they have had to take of over the last couple of years. Well in away I hope they take that action because I will then be free to go public with names and details of what has been going on without fear of making the situation worse for my partner.

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  15. We are constantly told by the media and politicians that we live in a deocracy. That real pride can be felt that this is a "Free Country", etc., etc...

    All the comments on this site demonstrate quite clearly that this is a myth. Many of the so-called "managers" and "leaders" are an absolute disgrace. A huge percentage of them have no knowledge of the job whatsoever, and must count their blessings every night that tomorrow morning they can go into work, pick on any member of staff, and have the unmonitored fun of making their lives a complete misery.
    Thousands of anonymous letters should be sent to all three party leaders in the run-up to the next election, to make this disgustingly undemocratic regime thiroughly embarrassed about the way this country now operates.

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  16. The current climate in HMRC offices regarding all things "management" is now so sinister as to require recording and exposing.
    Everything from "Stats" and "Targets", through Performance Management and Annual assessments (often carried out by "know-nothings" on experts !) the promotion system and its results and consequences are all grist for the reality mill, and would be a real shock to the system of people who were brought up to know right from wrong.
    I am currently compiling a book on peoples experiences at the coal-face, and would be pleased to hear your stories. Obviously complete annonimity is absolutely guaranteed.
    If you want to help, please e-mail me at MChri92708@AOL.COM

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  17. I have just spent 90minutes on the phone listening to the music and being told someone will be with me in a minute. Then I got cut-off because the office had now shut, any wonder the public have had enough of this useless call centre operation.

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