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HMRC call centre wait times unacceptable, says Datapoint

Recent figures released by HMRC have shown that average call waiting times have tripled in the last two years, leading one in four callers to hang up in frustration. These delays are plainly unacceptable, and, given the technology that exists, unnecessary, says Datapoint.

Gordon Young, general manager of Katalyst at Datapoint, comments: “What’s worrying here is that in the face of call-waiting times of up to four minutes, many callers have simply given up. If anything, through the mismanagement of its call centres, HMRC is actually dis-incentivising people from paying their taxes properly. By any standards, these waiting times times are unacceptable. A concerted effort will be needed to improve its call centres to ensure that information is as accessible as possible.”

Authorities have blamed recent staffing and budget cuts in recent years, suggesting that an additional 10,000 HMRC staff will be cut by 2015.

“Continually striving to do more with less – creating greater efficiency – is a basic practice in the private sector and one that public bodies are now having to learn during these more austere times,” Young continues. “It’s important that resources and staff are deployed efficiently, and intelligently. Contact centres, which are often a customer’s first point of contact, play an integral role in this but the fact that most contact centres, and the staff that operate them, aren’t being managed as well as they should be. By deploying contact centre optimisation tools, managers are better able to control call and team distribution, monitor call traffic and ensure that operators are where they are most needed.

“The tax cycle inevitably leads to peaks and troughs in call centre traffic. With the right monitoring tools in place, the HMRC would be able to plan for these better. There is technology out there that can help identify process inefficiencies and plan appropriately for fluctuating contact volumes, thus reducing the amount of time callers spend on hold,” Young concludes.

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