Waiting on the Phone Costs Public £136 Million a Year in UK

Author: Adi Gaskell
Published: December 18, 2012 at 5:55 am

pain of being on holdHanging around on the end of the phone whilst you wait to be connected to a customer service rep is something we can all relate to.  New data reveals the extent of this problem in the UK tax department.

The data reveals that delays in answering phone calls at Her Majesties Revenue and Customs office cost callers an estimated £136 million in phone charges whilst they were kept on hold.

The figures were derived by the National Audit Office, and consisted of £33 million in call charges, and a further £103 million in time wasted.

Whilst many of us will have eventually got through, a whopping 20 million calls were not picked up at all.

Whilst the department said it was determined to improve, the figures suggest they are in fact getting worse.  In 2009-10 the average time spent on hold was just 107 seconds.  Last year however that figure had slipped to 282 seconds.

Most calls to the department cost callers between 12p and 41p per minute, so being kept on hold for nearly 5 minutes before you even speak to someone sees the costs mounting up.

Sadly over 6.5 million people were kept on hold for longer than 10 minutes, which represents over 25% of all callers.

The figures compare to an average time spent on hold in industry of just 55 seconds.

Commons Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge said "When people have no choice but to contact the Revenue to discuss their tax affairs, I find it totally unacceptable that HMRC uses costly 0845 numbers and charges people for the privilege of waiting for the department to pick up."

"As the minutes tick by, the profits of HMRC's phone service provider, Cable and Wireless, rack up as they pocket a proportion of customer call charges.

She continued: "My concern is that the cost of hanging on the line hits those who call from a Pay-As-You-Go mobile the hardest."

"In 2011-12, a staggering 20 million calls went unanswered and yet HMRC still managed to exceed its self-set target of answering just 58% of calls," she added.

With many organisations making real strides towards providing excellent customer self service, these situations really are unacceptable and will no doubt be something the department is very keen to improve upon.


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Article Author: Adi Gaskell

A writer on management issues for publications such as Professional Manager, CMI, HRM Today, Business Works and Technorati. I also cover social media for Social Media Today, DZone and Social Business News.

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