New figures released this week have revealed that there has been drastic hike in the time callers are spent waiting to connect to an adviser when contacting the HM Revenue & Customers call centre. The statistics represent figures from March of this year and are fairly concerning when analysed in comparison with numbers from the same time last year.
In March 2014, the average wait length for customers trying to get through to an adviser was 2 minutes and 44 seconds, whereas results from March of this year show a substantial rise to 14 minutes and 22 seconds. Just thinking about being kept waiting during a phone call for nearly a quarter of an hour is enough to make the hairs stand up on the back on your neck in frustration so it comes as no surprise that the number of abandoned calls also rose.
The figures shows that this year’s call wait was five times longer than last year so you can hardly blame the 1.1million customers who gave up and terminated the call before getting through to an adviser. This number translates into a 22% of callers, which is significantly more than the 6% of last year.
The time callers were forced to wait when trying to get through to a member of staff on the specific tax helpline also increased, from 4 minutes and 19 seconds to 16 minutes and 29 seconds. This meant that callers who needed tax support so close to the end of the financial year were left with unanswered questions. Many customer queries that were sent via the post were also neglected as a consequence of staff trying ease the growing back log of calls.
Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Shabana Mahmood, said: “These are worrying figures, particularly for families about to be hit by cuts by the Government’s cut to tax credits. Ministers need to make sure HMRC is providing a decent service for ordinary working people, who are unsure of what next year will mean for their incomes.”
HMRC is blaming a complicated new telephone system for the lax service and has reportedly taken the issues on board and put a number of contingencies in place to try and rectify them. A spokesperson from the department said: “HMRC handles around 50 million calls a year, and during several significant peaks of customer contact we move resources around to meet priorities.
“We are developing digital products to provide more choices for our customers, such as the personal tax account and most recently allowing customers to complete their tax credits renewal online, which on average only takes six minutes. We are also trialling a web chat service so that simple queries can be answered by contacting an adviser online.”