The allocation is paying for around 3,000 additional staff to join customer service teams at their contact centres, on top of around 2,000 staff who are being moved over from other parts of HMRC to help with the tax credits deadline and letters and forms.
HMRC receives more than 60 million calls a year, peaking around key deadlines such as 31 January for Self Assessment, and 31 July for tax credits renewals.
The statistics show that while 73 per cent of calls were answered last year, service standards were inconsistent across the year, with some months falling well short of HMRC’s 80 per cent target. The figures also show that in some months as many as one in five customers heard a busy tone and could not join a phone queue.
Lin Homer, HMRC Chief Executive, accepted that standards had not been good enough and outlined the actions that HMRC has already taken to improve customer service, including recruitment and investment in technology.
Ms Homer said: “Despite our best efforts, our call performance hasn’t been up to scratch and we apologise to all those customers who have struggled to get through to us.
“Good customer service is an absolute priority for HMRC. We set ourselves the target to answer 80 per cent of calls, to provide a more consistent level of service across the year and to reduce peaks and troughs in service levels between busy and quieter times.
“While we were successful in tackling the busiest peaks for Self Assessment and tax credits customers, we didn’t meet our call handling target overall and we didn’t provide the consistent service to which we aspired.
“We have gripped this issue and recruited around 3,000 new staff in our customer operations and moved around 2,000 people from other parts of HMRC temporarily to support customer service in the run-up to the 31 July tax credits deadline.
“We are already seeing the benefit of this, and we are answering 60-70 per cent of calls on tax credits helplines. Tax credits renewals overall are more than 211,000 up on the same time last year.”
Ms Homer added: “We have also invested in new telephone equipment, which lets us switch calls to many more offices, not just take them in contact centres, so more of our staff can help customers at the busiest times.
“Our new online services are also giving customers new and better ways to deal with HMRC and I urge all customers who can go online to do so. For services like tax credits, it’s quick, simple and can be done anywhere any time, including from a smart phone.”
So far this year, 265,000 tax credits customers have already renewed online, against 97,000 at the same point last year. Satisfaction rates with the online service are high, at around 80 per cent.
As a footnote as a company we have had reason to contact HMRC to update our company details – Not once have we been ‘held in a queue’, or our call being lost or even transfered.