UK Government Tax Office Invests £45m in Improving Customer Service

HMRC aims to improve call handling performance with investment in recruitment and technology.

Commercial companies aren't the only ones that need to ensure they provide an excellent customer experience, government offices too need to carefully look at what service they're providing and whether it fulfils the needs of their customers.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the UK government tax office, released statistics which showed an inconsistent call handling performance in 2014-15. While 73 per cent of calls were answered last year, service standards were inconsistent across the year, with some months falling well short of HMRC's 80 per cent target.

In addition, in some months as many as one in five customers heard a busy tone and could not join a phone queue. As they receive more than 60 million calls a year, this means that thousands of people received a subpar service.

To ensure that they will be providing a better experience to customers going forward, HMRC has announced that it is allocating £45 million to improve services.

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

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.

She explained: "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.

"We have gripped this issue and recruited around 3,000 new staff in our customer operations and moved around 2,000 people from other parts of HMRC temporarily to support customer service in the run-up to the 31 July tax credits deadline.

"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.

"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.

"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 smart phone."