A mere two days ago I wrote yet another article about HMRC's telephone service standards, as if by magic HMRC have today issued a press release about the issue.
HMRC will recruit "up to" an additional 1,000 call centre staff, and "invest" "up to" an additional £34M by 2014 in an attempt to resolve the shite call handling performance.
A few observations:
1 Have HMRC not been reducing headcount over the past few years? Therefore to recruit "up to" 1,000 call centre staff seems to fly in the face of the ongoing headcount reduction.
2 Will the new staff be of the same skill and experience levels as those who have been dismissed? Ermmm.....I wouldn't think so!
3 The "investment" of "up to" £34M is in fact merely a redirection of resources. No new money is being put into the overall HMRC "pot"; as Homer says, this money is being taken from somewhere else in the organisation:
"I am reprioritising our resources to make this additional investment possible, without impacting our other core customer services."Does anyone know where the money is being taken from?
Anyhoo, as to whether this is a genuine attempt to improve things (as opposed to a window dressing exercise) and indeed as to whether it really will work, only time will tell.
I guess by then Homer will have been promoted to another civil service department.
Here is the text of the press release in full:
"HMRC’s Chief Executive, Lin Homer, has announced the recruitment of up to 1,000 additional contact centre staff, to achieve a target of answering 90 per cent of all calls two years earlier than planned.Mrs Homer has planned a £9 million additional investment this year and up to £25 million in 2013-14 to reach the call centre industry standard two years earlier than HMRC originally promised to Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee.
The decision to invest in extra staff was taken after close consultation with the Joint Initiative on HMRC Service Delivery (JIHSD), which involves professional bodies and tax charities.
While call centre performance has improved significantly, from 48 per cent of all attempts handled in 2010/11 to 74 per cent in 2011/12, HMRC and JIHSD agreed that more needed to be done to provide a better calls service to customers.
Lin Homer said:
“Our contact centres receive around 60 million phone calls a year and how well we operate this service is of huge importance to our customers.
“It is vital that when customers call us for help their call is answered – and in a reasonable time. The feedback we get is that the quality of the advice we give when people get through is good, but we haven’t been answering enough calls.
“Our target of achieving contact centre industry standards of 90 per cent of calls answered first time is the right target. But after hearing the views of customers, stakeholder bodies and our own staff, we have speeded up our timetable for achieving it.
“I believe that we should be providing this important level of customer service sooner, not later, and investment of up to £34 million will enable us to do this by the end of March 2013 and sustain service levels during the next two years, rather than wait until 2015 to achieve the target. It will also enable us to reduce call waiting times drastically.
“I am reprioritising our resources to make this additional investment possible, without impacting our other core customer services.
“We remain committed to offering more online services and other ways of serving customers, which will ultimately reduce their need to call us. But in the meantime, this investment will give customers what they deserve – a much more responsive HMRC.
“I am enormously grateful to our stakeholder partners for their constructive advice, guidance and support in helping us to prioritise this additional investment in contact centres.
“I also want to thank our staff who work hard to deliver a good service and this investment will help them deliver to the standard they want to achieve.”
Exchequer Secretary David Gauke MP said:
“Although there has been an improvement in contact centre performance over the last couple of years, too many callers have faced unacceptable delays in getting through. I welcome this announcement which should result in a much improved service.”
Paul Aplin, Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales and a member of the Joint Initiative on HMRC Service Delivery said;
“Today’s announcement shows how effective the engagement between HMRC and the key stakeholders involved in this initiative has been. There is more to do but this is a really encouraging step forward.”
Notes for Editors
1. HMRC has 17 contact centres based across the UK, employing 8,500 staff, handling around 60 million calls a year.
2. In 2010/11, HMRC answered 48% of all call attempts, and 74 per cent in 2011/12. Performance levels fluctuate throughout the year as a result of surges in calls during peak periods – such as Self Assessment filing and Tax Credits renewals. The industry standard is to answer 90 per cent of all call attempts.
3. The Joint Initiative on HMRC Service Delivery involves the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG), Tax Aid and Tax Help for Older People (TOP).
4. The Project was set up in September 2011 in response to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee’s recommendation that HMRC should work closely with professional bodies, tax charities and businesses to improve the end to end experience of dealing with HMRC. Initiatives on which HMRC and JIHSD have worked together include:
- A series of highly-successful visits to each others’ premises that helped both sides gain a better understanding of the issues from the others’ perspective
- Working together on a series of improvements around post handling times, guidance on PAYE coding, and turnaround of repayment approvals. To the end of July, we have dealt with over 80% of PAYE/SA post within 15 working days compared to 67% for the whole of 2011/12.
- Creating a single point of contact for bereaved PAYE and SA customers and improving services for bereaved customers.
- Implementing a number of improvements around informing employers that their P35 end-of-year returns were late and subject to penalties.
- Setting up an email pilot for 200 agents which has been well received.
- Launching a postal tracker tool on the HMRC Website, enabling PAYE customers and agents to self-serve when a response can be expected."
Tax does have to be taxing.
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