Industry Research : IRD's Slow Phone Answering Has Wasted Money in Four Years
Oct 6, 2012 -- Businesses waiting for Inland Revenue to answer the phone have wasted staff time worth at least $2 million in the past four years, Labour claims.
State services spokesman Chris Hipkins said the numbers were calculated conservatively, based on the minimum wage, and the 150,000 hours of unproductive time waiting for the IRD to answer calls amounted to a huge loss of productivity.
"If we put 3500 people in a room for a week that still wouldn't equal the amount of time Kiwi businesses have spent waiting on hold to speak to the IRD over the past four years," he said.
That was just the impact on businesses. If those waiting on inquiries relating to personal matters, such as child support or Working for Families, were added the numbers would be much worse.
"Increasing numbers of Kiwis are getting so frustrated they're just giving up completely. Last year over one million people hung up before their call had been answered. A further 260,000 gave up after being placed on hold."
Mr Hipkins said National had promised to focus on improving frontline services. "If the IRD call centre's performance is anything to go by, they've failed miserably."
Data supplied in answer to written questions from Mr Hipkins showed that in the year till June 2012, 341,869 general business calls were answered in less than five minutes.
Another 36,128 waited more than five but less than 10 minutes, far better than the 77,922 who waited that long in 2010.
In 2012, 49,193 waited more than 15 minutes, down from 57,354 in 2009.
The record wait over the four-year period was two hours and 49 minutes by a tax agent in 2010.
IRD's group manager for customer services, Eleanor Young, said in 2011-12 the contact centre answered 4.1 million calls. Measures had been put in place to reduce wait times and the 0800 number offered a call-back option.
"Most of the time all calls are answered promptly. However, there can be delays at our busiest times of the year."
Improvements had seen abandoned calls fall from 261,767 to 208,293 in the last year.
"During periods of high customer demand, we advise callers to try again later. We use this option as a last resort to manage wait times and have successfully reduced its use in 2012 compared with 2011."
Callers could also schedule an appointment or call outside business hours to arrange a call back up to a week in advance.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, September 17, 2012