IRD’s callback option eases pain of waiting

Sixty percent of all callers offered the service have taken it up, says call centre manager

Inland Revenue has enhanced its much-criticised interactive voice response (IVR) telephone system with a callback facility. This gives customers the option of hanging up to be phoned back when they reach the head of the queue, rather than holding on for long periods.

Callback was launched on August 18.

“Early indications are very positive,” says call centre manager Valerie Price. “Sixty percent of all callers offered the service have taken it up. The service is being rolled out gradually and is currently not available on all numbers at all times. However, if the pilot is successful — and early indications are that it will be — we intend to roll out the service progressively across all queues.”

Price spoke at last month’s G-Force conference, held by contact centre vendor Genesys, in Melbourne. At that time, she remarked on shortcomings in the IRD’s ability to analyse its call patterns so as to improve service.

“We are data rich but information poor,” she told the G-Force audience.

“Inland Revenue has sound performance monitoring capability,” she told Computerworld later. “All incoming calls to our call centre are recorded, and we compile detailed statistics about our calls.

“However, we always like to have more sophisticated information and analysis, so that we can learn more about behavioural trends and analyse in more depth the reasons behind people’s calls.”

A target established 10 years ago to reduce average call length to three-and-a-half minutes proved unrealistic as the department’s workload expanded, Price says.

“Inland Revenue’s business has expanded substantially over the last 10 years, with the addition of major social policy initiatives such as KiwiSaver and Working for Families tax credits. Today, social policy initiatives comprise half our business.

“We want to ensure when we speak to our callers that they fully understand their obligations and entitlements, and this can take much longer than 3.5 minutes.

“ We are keen to resolve customer’s queries on the first call, so that they do not have to ring us back.”

Customer use of the online interface as a substitute for paper transactions is increasing, Price says.

“For example, use of client maintenance, our online service that lets tax agents add or remove clients from their client list, has grown steadily this year. This year, 395,626 online sessions were completed, a 34% increase from 2006-07.”

Another area of growth is customers accessing accounts using the IRD’s Look at Account Information (LAAI) service, Price says.

This service was accessed up to 6.4 million times compared with 4.9 million last year. Tax agents make 85% of all LAAI transactions.

“All major banks offer an internet tax-payment service. Internet tax payments made up 42% of all total electronic payments we received this year, compared with 37% in 2006-07. We received 1.6 million payments, to the value of $5.7 billion, which is a 30% increase in volume and a 38% increase in revenue compared with 2006-07. Total visits to our website are up 31%,” says Price.

“We expect digital uptake to steadily increase in coming years, and will be marketing the services more strongly.”

Stephen Bell travelled to Melbourne courtesy of Genesys

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