The public accounts committee receive more letters of complaint about customer service at HMRC than any other issue. Personal tax callers to the HMRC have recently experienced appalling service, being put on hold for a staggering 4 million hours last year. Director General, Ruth Owen, claims that they are trying to address the issue by recruiting two thousand four hundred new staff who are needed to implement the required improvements. These staff will be replacing the five thousand six hundred who had been redeployed, dismissed, or who retired and were not replaced in 2014-15! During this recent reconstruction they also closed call centres and replaced them with mobile face to face services. 

Apparently, it now takes a caller 47 minutes on average to get through to one of the HMRC advisors. Yes…47 minutes. For every £1 saved by HMRC the customer is paying £4 in time and money.

The humble telephone can be your most powerful business tool. So HMRC must start listening to their clients; many of whom do not want to pay their tax bill digitally nor do they want remote service. They want personal contact and they need complex information to be explained to them quickly and efficiently. This is a good reminder for professional services firms who are, quite rightly, embracing technology. While the ever increasing use of services like cloud accounting is a wonderful thing, firms must not lose the personal touch and must always be responsive to what clients really want. The telephone can build and confirm relationships, can reduce conflict and can seal the deal so there will always be a place for actually talking to people. 

Sort it out HMRC – I would call you to give you some advice but I don’t have 47 minutes to spare...