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ITA: HMRC’s Service Improvement Weapon

The HMRC uses what they call its Intelligent Telephony Automation or ITA to improve the user’s experience in their services. This automated HMRC phone number and telephony learns from its users and can be updated from feedback. The HMRC or HM Revenue and Customs are Great Britain’s main government agency concerned with tax collections.

value-added-tax-novacon-bulgariaDuring ITA’s enhancement two years ago, the agency discovered that the key words embedded in the system must tie in with what the users use and understand. More than the key word recognition is the understanding of the telephony system for process improvement and effectiveness. What is expected that in improving the recognition, the user will get through and secure a better tax adviser.

User Groups

HMRC has been coordinating with various user groups to identify which key words are not being recognized by the system and changing them appropriately. By using a common vocabulary there wouldn’t be miscommunication involved nor misunderstanding from either ends of the line.

For example, the suggestion from one user group to revert back to the push button menu has been vetoed by HMRC. The revenue body likewise turns down the combination of using both speech recognition and push button. According to HMRC, the ITA will not be including any push button options. Common feedback from other users is that push button is a throwback that they’d rather not deal with again at all. It is overwhelmingly unpopular. The suggestion to override the ITA to get straight into a person will not be offered in the near future too.

Shortened Waiting Times

The use of ITA has effectively shortened the average length of call. This has translated to an increase in the call handling capacity of the agency. HMRC notes that this increase in capacity is a marked improvement they wouldn’t want to lose. HMRC also singled out that the ITA speech recognition capability is not being used on agent-dedicated lines.

Although the agency has considered widening the breadth of agent dedicated lines to get excellent levels of service, this may make the agency run in too thin on the rest of the clients they serve. They said that extending the service will have a domino effect on other customers thus, the impact must be well studied and considered.Remove featured image

Cartoon_Character-48The reason for excluding the agent lines is due to the frustration of the agents that the ITA notifies the customers to go online instead. The feedback mentions that if someone tries to find out what they want to do online, they are prodded to phone a call only to be advised to go online instead. This is being addressed by the tax agency.

Agent Workshop

What they have done so far is to conduct a workshop to solicit feedback from agents. Concerns have been gathered and discussed to create an understanding of the problems experienced when contacting HMRC via telephone. The information will become part of the next waves of process and technology improvements for ITA.

The improvement goal of HMRC as regards calls being answered within five minutes stand at 90%. It is currently at 80% right now. They keep on mentioning that it is not satisfied with the current metrics. With that in mind, it will keep the 80% to remain consistent so that the service the customers get day in and out will remain for the most part of the year.

The key they said is that over the last two years, there were moment of really good service level, at 90% of calls managed in five minutes. This was in the second half of both years. The aim to do this across the entire year is the new goal so that spread over the 12 months, the service level will be maintained at a consistent 80% in any given month.

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Tax Errors Happen When HMRC Is Not Picking Up


It is an acknowledged fact that the taxpayers will most likely pay the correct tax amount if the HMRC is easy to deal with. This is in the light of the struggling customer service being experienced when dialing the HMRC contact number.

calculator_forms_1040Customer service levels have been so bad that they have been blamed for the poor tax collections lately. Being left in the dark, unassisted and ignored, are the common feedback from people who are calling about their tax questions, returns, PAYE slips and other financial documents.


Tax Return Errors

A prominent MP fears that because of this inefficiency, millions of UK people are making errors in their tax returns. People feel anxious that they might have been paying incorrect amounts because they cannot talk to someone behind the helpline phone number.

The same goes for the complicated tax system that people have been asking clarifications about. As online returns are important, so are the payer’s valid questions and problems that needed to be answered or resolved. The people need help and it appears as if HMRC is not listening.



From The Inside

A spokesperson from the Revenue office admitted that the inconsistencies in managing the call volume was causing quite a few frustrations but its impact does not creep into the collection of taxes. They have admitted that insofar as the customer level is concerned, yes they were being inconsistent. There were statements that more than 3,000 more staff has been trained to do something about improving the service levels.

By the looks of it, the increased number in the workforce can do its share in making sure a lot more of the call volume is attended too. How much better if they are attended to and helped right after. This will ensure that tax payers will feel a lot better after the call.


Automated Menu

1374817901_tax-fileThe use of a menu automation will effectively shorten the average length of call according to HMRC. They are saying that by putting this in place, it will help a lot in addressing the call management issues that they have been facing. This will be translating into an increase in the call handling capacity of the phone lines. This increase in call volume capacity is a marked improvement that they wouldn’t want to lose. They want to study the contribution it is making in the overall improvements so that they can enhance it further.

Although the agency has considered widening the spread help the representatives can provide for over the phones, this may result to underwhelming service to the clients they serve. The agents may become too overwhelmed by all the questions and tasks they need to do that they cannot focus on giving a great service and they may become too focused on finishing one call after another. HMRC said that extending the service will create a domino effect on other customers thus; the decision must be well studied and considered before it becomes final.

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