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News : HMRC Brings Call Centre Jobs Back to Pre-cut Levels as Wait Time Drops
London, England, July 14, 2017 -- HM Revenue & Customs has hired 800 extra staff to speed up its helplines after coming under fire last year for keeping taxpayers waiting almost an hour to get through to someone.
The move has bought its number of call centre advisers back to 2013-14 levels, according to an 82-page annual report published on Friday, with calls in the year to March 2017 answered in around 3 minutes 54 seconds.
The Government pledged to improve waiting times last year after it emerged that a decision to cut 5,600 jobs in 2015 had left callers waiting up to an hour for an answer, up from less than 10 minutes just two years earlier.
Its promises included hiring the extra staff, who are on flexible contracts, making the helplines available seven days a week and extending web chat availability.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said on Friday that the hires have "significantly improved" the service for callers, with call centre staff handling 8m more calls than in 2015-16 but around three times faster.
However the Whitehall auditors warned that HMRC could be overstating the amount of calls that are handled. It said, for example, that the taxman claims to have resolved 92pc of calls in the year to March despite only 33.6m of the 49.9m callers speaking to someone.
Warning that further cost cuts in the coming year "could put the service under pressure once again" it urged HMRC not to assume all customers have had their query resolved at the point a call ends.
"There is also opportunity for HMRC to improve some of its other performance measures to better reflect customer experience, including whether it resolves customers’ queries first time, and the quality of its advice," it said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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More Editorial From H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
About H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC):
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was formed on the 18 April 2005, following the merger of Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise Departments. HMRC ensures the correct tax is paid at the right time, whether this relates to payment of taxes received by the department or entitlement to benefits paid.
Published: Monday, July 17, 2017