Revenue and Customs: Telephone Services

Treasury written question – answered on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the (a) average time taken for a call to be answered, (b) average time spent waiting in a call queue, (c) average call duration, (d) number of unanswered calls, (e) average response time for a return call and (f) percentage of calls returned was in call centres operated by HM Revenue and Customs in (i) 2008, (ii) 2009 and (iii) 2010 to date; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Digital Britain) (also HM Treasury), Financial Secretary (HM Treasury) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

The information requested, where available, is provided in the following table.

2007-08 2008-09 April 2009 to February 2010
Average time for a call to be answered (mm:ss)(1) 01:26 01:57 01:29
Average time spent waiting in a call queue(1) As above As above As above
Average call duration (mm:ss)(2) 05:27 05:59 06:31
Number of unanswered calls (Million)(3) 24.5 43.7 16.4
(1) Defined as the time taken for a call to be answered by an adviser once a customer has selected an option from the call steering menu.

(2) This includes the time the customer speaks to an adviser and any follow-up actions the adviser may need to take (e.g. updating customer's records).

(3) Defined as the difference between the call attempts made to HMRC's telephone helplines and the call attempts answered by advisers, less calls answered with an automated message.

In July 2009 HM Revenue and Customs introduced a range of automated information messages on its helplines whose purpose includes enabling customers to gain the information they need without speaking to an adviser. From April 2009 to February 2010, five million calls had been handled in this way, helping to reduce the 'unanswered calls' to 16.4 million.

HMRC's systems do not capture information on return calls.

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