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In 2011-12, 20 million phone calls to HMRC were not answered. It cost the callers Ap136 million while they waited to speak to an adviser. And, against its target of responding to 80% of letters within 15 days, the department managed to reply to just 66%. Officials are beginning to realize that good customer service lies at the heart of any strategy to maximize revenues while cutting costs. Callers will no longer be forced to use the more expensive 0845 numbers. Other planned changes include the resolution of more queries first time and a call-back service where this is not possible. However, HMRC's new target of answering 80% of calls within five minutes is still woefully short of the industry standard of answering 80% of calls within 20 seconds. Just how the department is going to improve standards of customer service, given the prospect of its having fewer staff and receiving a higher volume of calls, is open to question. HMRC plans to cut the number of customer-facing staff by a third by 2015. At the same time, the stresses associated with introducing the Real Time Information System, Universal Credit and changes to child benefit are likely to drive up the number of phone calls to the department. HMRC is also to close all of its 281 enquiry centres which give face-to-face advice to customers. HMRC considers that it will be able to improve service standards by using its staff more flexibly. It may need to put in additional resources, though, to avoid the kind of plummeting performance we have seen in the pastLin Homer: So at the moment, an agent can go online and check where a piece of post is in our systems. Again, if that works, ... The question for us is how many of those people have chosen to stay in receipt of child benefit and to pay it back, and how many simply did not opt out. We will keep ... I think it is unacceptable that people have to relate to a public service through an 0845 number. We have askedanbsp;...

Author:Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Committee of Public Accounts
Publisher:The Stationery Office - 2013-03-18


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