MSE News: HMRC to set aside £45m to improve phone service

edited 29 June 2015 at 9:47AM in Benefits & Tax Credits
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Former_MSE_HelenFormer_MSE_Helen Former MSE
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edited 29 June 2015 at 9:47AM in Benefits & Tax Credits
Figures show that 7.2 million phone calls made to HMRC in the last year went through to a 'busy' tone...
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HMRC to set aside £45m to improve phone service

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  • MacMicksterMacMickster Forumite
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    The best way to improve the HMRC telephone service would undoubtedly be to get things right in the first place and within a reasonable time scale, negating the need for people to phone in the first place.

    As the £45 million is not new money, surely that means that they are taking staff from other duties meaning more phone calls from people chasing things up and dealing with errors.
    "When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty." - Thomas Jefferson
  • PincherPincher
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    I expect to hear this any day now: an Indian businessman pays the HMRC for the privilege of handling calls through his call centre in Mumbai. They now have access to all the personal information of all the tax payers in the UK.


    I thought they moved to a streamlined system of making up a figure for you pay, and you have to go to court to challenge them.
    People have obviously misunderstood the idea that they are supposed to just pay it, and save both sides the bother of having to argue about it. ;)
  • harz99harz99 Forumite
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    The absolute best thing they could do would be reopen physical offices to deal with enquiries and not rely on phone lines, failing that at least move to an 0800 number that doesn't charge for the multiple calls/queuing time.
  • PennywisePennywise Forumite
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    harz99 wrote: »
    The absolute best thing they could do would be reopen physical offices to deal with enquiries and not rely on phone lines, failing that at least move to an 0800 number that doesn't charge for the multiple calls/queuing time.

    The absolute best they could do would be to staff the call centres with people who've been properly trained and are competent to do their job. Nothing wrong with call centres, but they've staffed them with too many people with no prior knowledge of the tax system and only given them basic training, often meaning the person calling in has more knowledge than the call centre worker. A very large proportion of calls in are to correct errors made by HMRC or because things previously promised in an earlier call havn't been actioned.

    Apparently, HMRC received 72 million phone calls. There aren't 72 million people/businesses and most people won't need to call, so a high proportion of those calls will be repeat calls, from maybe just 5-10 million people/businesses, who are having to repeatedly call to get their tax sorted - things which would have been unnecessary if mistakes hadn't been made in the first place.
  • reduxredux Forumite
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    I recommend the calls provider 18185

    5 pence per call, no per minute charges even for 50 or 60 minutes unanswered in HMRC's call queue.

    In the old days it was much easier - ring a number in the local telephone directory and speak to someone hundreds of miles away in Livingstone who says they only deal with people in Scotland.

    Or ring a phone number listed in a recent letter from them, and the number had been disconnected. Months later it transpired that the address in the letter heading was also no longer in use, hence they hadn't received my tax return that I posted there.

    In other words, some parts of that organisation have always been bad.

    harz99 wrote: »
    The absolute best thing they could do would be reopen physical offices to deal with enquiries and not rely on phone lines, ...

    I'm not sure that would work either. I once spent several hours being transferred or told to ring another office, and ended up completing the loop when the sixth was the same as the first.

    Progress was eventually made when they gave me a appointment at the local office. I turned up on time and was shown to sit at a table. A staff member picked up a phone and called someone somewhere, gave me the phone, and the person at the other end also refused to answer my two questions.

    I was very tempted to send them a bill for travelling expenses and wasting my time.
  • edited 26 June 2015 at 3:00PM
    reduxredux Forumite
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    edited 26 June 2015 at 3:00PM
    Pennywise wrote: »
    Nothing wrong with call centres, but they've staffed them with too many people with no prior knowledge of the tax system and only given them basic training, often meaning the person calling in has more knowledge than the call centre worker.

    It looks like you've hit the nail on the head there.

    some basic arithmetic:

    The £45 million allocation will come from the current spending settlement and is not additional revenue from the Treasury, HMRC says.

    The money is paying for around 3,000 additional staff to join customer service teams, on top of around 2,000 who are being moved over temporarily from other parts of HMRC to help with the tax credits deadline and letters and forms.


    £45 million divided by 3000 is £15,000

    But some of the money is for temporary redeployment of existing staff.

    So it would appear that the additional 3000 staff will be on or below the minimum wage.

    But add on employment overheads like employer national insurance, pension contributions, training and office space cost, and maybe someone has got their sums wrong.
  • jamesdjamesd Forumite
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    "MoneySavingExpert.com has long warned people about HMRC's slow answering times around key deadlines and has campaigned for it to do more about it."

    MSE wants HMRC to do better than 99.9% of calls being answered around key deadline dates?

    "people who left their tax affairs to the last minute tended to fare better as priority was given to those with the most immediate deadline. HMRC answered 99.9 per cent of self-assessment calls on January 31 2015 deadline day". That day was a Saturday.

    The less urgent calls can reasonably be deferred.
  • gadgetmindgadgetmind Forumite
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    HRMC? Who dat den?
    I am not a financial adviser and neither do I play one on television. I might occasionally give bad advice but at least it's free.

    Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them.
  • edited 27 June 2015 at 3:10AM
    dori2odori2o Forumite
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    edited 27 June 2015 at 3:10AM
    The problem stems from the cuts made to staff, plain and simple. Its not that the current staff are not trained its that they dont have the necessary experience given most havent been there that long.

    You cant cut the number of staff that HMRC has cut and not expect the call times to increase.

    All that happens is that they end up 'borrowing' staff from other areas of the department, i.e back office/processing, but what they dont seem to understand is that a) by taking people away from their usual jobs all that happens is that processing of post, claims, self assessment forms gets backed up, therefore this generates more calls to progress chase repayments, SA calculations etc, and b) those who work in processing are generally not fully trained in all aspects of tax, only on the areas they need to perform their
    duties, so someone processing P87 claims wont have SA knowledge outside of the very basics.

    The other major problem is their all singing all dancing new tax system. Its always got some problem with it. Every week there is a fault, a work around, some aspect not working properly, and so generally this is where errors stem from.

    Then theres the increase in human error which has increased in recent years and stems again from the loss of jobs enforced onto HMRC. Staff are ubder more pressure than ever before to produce more and more with less and less staff. Ever increasing targets are written into annual performance agreements, and failure to consistently meet targets results in disciplinary action. For example, those who work on the phone are expected to deal with a call and all additional work linked to that call within a specified time depending on which line of business that call comes from. So a PAYE call, someone employed, is expected to be dealt with in just over 9 mins 30 seconds, a Self Assessment call in just over 10 mins, and a call from accountants dealing with clients about 8 mins.

    If your average Call Handling time is above these limits you have to give an explanation as to why, and the excuse of I was trying to give the best service possible and ensure that everything was done correctly is not acceptable.

    Therefore people start to panic after they have had a few long calls in a day that their CHT is going to be in excess of what is deemed acceptable and this is where mistakes are made.

    Staff are supposed to have 1hr a week of investment time, plus approx 1hr a week of meetings/reading time, both of which are supposed to be there for keeping up to date with changes to guidance, for highlighting problem areas, discussing team stats inc CHT and sharing best practice, and also for training and development. However, most weeks this is either cut or cancelled completely, and when staff complain that they are unable to keep upto date they're told to do it in their break/dinner time.

    Without major investment into staff and computer systems that work, the situation wont improve. Its not that staff are lazy, its that they are generally over worked, under appreciated, under motivated, not sufficiently developed as needed.

    Reports like this one dont help as they dont highlight the real causes of the issues, it assumes that those on the phone dont answer because they dont care or are lazy and looking at some comments on here and on the comments page of the newspapers website which reported this its the same, suggesting staff are lazy, should be paid NMW (despite the fact they are not far off, the maximum for a general advisor is approx £21k, significantly lower than the average salary in the UK. Others suggest outsourcing to private companies, yet every trial ever done shows they perform significantly worse in terms of both calls handled and significantly worse in quality of work.

    The people to blame are those who make the decisions both within HMRC and for Hmrc at Government level.

    Within the next couple of months HMRC are supposed to be trialling their new Customer Contact process which will replace the existing contact centre setup. There will be fewer contact sites but more people taking contact from customers and a broader variation on the means of contact including e-mail, live on screen chat, telephone, post/fax which will scan all inbound post allowing the advisor to see a piece of post if needed when a caller calls in to ask about it, and a sort of return to whole case working where the advisor who takes your call/email/live chat etc will process your claim/resolve your query etc and deal with it from start to finish rather than referring it on to other areas of the business as is the case for many calls now (this obviously wont include technical queries or issues with payments made to HMRC).

    It remains to see how well this works during the trials, which I will be involved with as my team has been selected as one of the 6 in our site to take part for 6-12 months whilst the process is developed. Our job will be to identify what is good/bad and what changes/improvements need to/should be made to ensure it works for everyone and improves the customer experience.
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  • GingernuttyGingernutty Forumite
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    Spam's arriving. Can you click a few :spam: buttons guys?
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