Taxman finally fixing inadequate customer service?

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HMRC has announced a £45 million investment to revamp its customer service, after reports showed an unacceptable call handling performance.

Latest statistics show just 73% of calls were answered last year. Customers were left frustrated when contacting helpline facilities, with one in five hearing a busy tone and unable to join the phone queue.

These figures are consistent with previous reports on HMRC’s shortcomings in its customer services department. As we reported last year, Which? found that callers were experiencing delays of up to 45 minutes.

Some customers didn’t even get through to one of HMRC’s advisors, with 30% of calls cut off and 20% receiving “very busy” automated messages.

HMRC is using the investment to employ 3,000 additional staff in customer services, and 2,000 current members of staff are being moved from other departments to aid with the tax credits deadline, letters and forms.

Lin Homer, HMRC chief executive, acknowledged the failures but believes the additional staff will improve customer satisfaction.

She said: “We are already seeing the benefit of this, and we are answering 60-70 per cent of calls on tax credits helplines. Tax credits renewals overall are more than 211,000 up on the same time last year.”

Increasing staffing levels is not the only action HMRC has taken to improve its customer service.

Homer added: “We have also invested in new telephone equipment, which lets us switch calls to many more offices, not just take them in contact centres, so more of our staff can help customers at the busiest times.”

She also revealed the addition of a new online system, commenting: “Our new online services are also giving customers new and better ways to deal with HMRC and I urge all customers who can go online to do so.

"For services like tax credits, it’s quick, simple and can be done anywhere any time, including from a smartphone.”

Have your say

Have you had difficulty contacting HMRC? Do you think the changes will help resolve the problem? Join in the discussion on Twitter, or leave a comment below.