IRD phone calls

July 13th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stacey Kirk at Stuff reports:

Government cuts and poor planning have left more than 70,000 calls to unanswered over its busiest tax return time, the Public Service Association (PSA) says.

IRD figures showed about 70,000 calls weren’t answered between June 25 and July 5 – the two weeks leading up to the deadline for filing tax returns.

During that period 164,000 calls were planned for, but more than 202,000 were received. Of those only about 131,000 were actually answered as the department struggled to cope with increased demand.

The PSA said there had also been a significant increase in the number complaints about the phone service.

National secretary Richard Wagstaff said it was frustrating for both the public and staff but was a “clear consequence” of budget cuts and bad decision-making.

I’m a bit surprised by those numbers as I was one of those callers towards the end of that period. I first registered on their new voice authentication system. You repeat three phrases three times and their system records your voice patterns. This means that for future phone calls, they have a higher confidence they have verified your identity, and can deal with more stuff over the phone.

After the authentication there was a delay until answering, but only one minute. The good thing is the IRD system now tells you how long the delay is which makes a huge difference.

Then once I got through to a staffer, she talked me through how to get a personal tax summary, and I managed to file my effective return online. It went very smoothly.

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22 Responses to “IRD phone calls”

  1. Viking2 (11,284 comments) says:

    People hang up because they have businesses to run and ringing the IRD is like ringing for an airplane seat in the usa. Ogh so you are going on holiday? Please wait.

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  2. peterwn (3,216 comments) says:

    IRD also seems to do what other call centres do not – offer to ‘return’ the call at a mutually convenient time. This gives a real win-win situation, helps smooth out call centre traffic while avoiding clients being stuck with ‘music on hold’.

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  3. KiwiRupes (15 comments) says:

    I seem to recall that one of the challenges that the IRD have is the long training time for the staff, which given the technical nature of the tax queries takes some months.

    That combined with the short (few months only) peak in call volumes they are in a dilemma, they can either train sufficient staff to handle this peak and keep them employed for the entire year with nothing to do or hire people on short term contracts and then have to spend more time training them that they are actually taking calls.

    It’s a bit of a case of damned if you do, or damned if you don’t.

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  4. KiwiRupes (15 comments) says:

    Secondly, what the article doesn’t say, is when or why people were abandoning the call they made.

    If they called in and for instance they were told there was a 10 minute wait and chose to hang up – was this counted as an unanswered call? When in fact they just called back later and were answered in a reasonable time?

    I’m sure detractors of the IRD would be counting these, but it’s not necessarily a valid statistic – a better number might be calls which abandoned after 30 seconds of queuing.

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  5. Mobile Michael (434 comments) says:

    About 10 of those calls could have been avoid if IRD didn’t muck up our WFF assessment and then make my wife and I jump through hoops to get it fixed. Given my experiences with IRD over the years their error rate is probably the biggest cause of calls.

    However, the phone system does offer you a call back which worked well. I missed the first callback as I was, er, busy in the bathroom but got another call 5 minutes later.

    And for you (fellow) right wingers out there, tell me you wouldn’t take back sone more of your tax if you could!

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  6. backster (2,124 comments) says:

    I rang them this year, I was dealt with courteously and efficiently and thought the system much improved on previous years.

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  7. theodoresteel (91 comments) says:

    I tried to call about three times a day for four days (being the week just before that period). Each time, I was not ever put on hold, but informed by their automated system that they were too busy and I would have to call back later (at which point I was disconnected).

    When I did get through past that point and joined the queue I was also repeatedly cut off before getting to speak to someone. I also tried their call-back system – I recieved my call back within two minutes and was told I was bieng connected to a representative…. at which point I was disconnected again.

    Best part was trying to use their online system instead – instead of showing anything remotely helpful large parts of my details were replaced with a red box saying “this information is currently unavailable”….

    I gave up and tried again a week or so later and got through first time. But the difficulty of contacting them initially was unbelieveable (I did complain as well – but have not yet recieved any response).

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  8. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Didn’t John Key say repeatedly throughout the election campaign that there would be no cuts to frontline services? I wonder how many voters were silly enough to believe him. Still, according to some on the Right, the public service is a waste of taxpayers money.

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  9. Ed Snack (1,803 comments) says:

    I called in that period as well, and received a reasonably prompt response, certainly wasn’t long though I can’t say how long to be sure. Perhaps as I was ringing for a forgotten password it was quicker, there’s less training involved in asking the standard questions they do than in answering more complex tax questions, so much easier to staff.

    And I also use the IRD online filing for IR3, and I’m a great fan. Quick, simple and responsive. I can imagine though if like theodoresteel above if they messed up your data that it would be less satisfactory.

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  10. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    No matter what you say about the IRD, they are far better than the ATO.
    Their website is easier to navigate and get information out of, the staff are better trained and can give you answers (I have given up calling ATO to ask them questions – you’re better to talk to a brick wall and troll through their horrible but improving website) and they are allowed to give “general” advice without you having to disclose your identity.
    The forms are also way easier to fill out – it takes several hours to do a personal tax return in Australia, and about ten minutes in NZ.

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  11. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Didn’t John Key say repeatedly throughout the election campaign that there would be no cuts to frontline services? I wonder how many voters were silly enough to believe him.

    I suggest you should read the article right to the end, not just the section containing the union approved talking points.

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  12. Mark (497 comments) says:

    IRD have always been crap at answering phone calls promptly – several years ago I waited on hold for over 1 1/2 hours and then for some reason they just terminated the phone call.

    I suspect every year over the last deacde it’s been 70,000 calls or more that haven’t been answered.

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  13. lastmanstanding (1,241 comments) says:

    What do you expect they are a monopoly no competition therefore no service. I asked if I could send an email with a scanned copy of some docs. NO you have to fax them. WTF who uses faxes in 2012?????? SO last century.

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  14. Kiwi Dave (82 comments) says:

    My experience has been quite different from Mark’s (11.48). I’ve rung the IRD several times in past years and on just one occasion had to wait several minutes to get through. I wonder also, how many people, like me, left their returns to the last minute when we could have dealt with them well before the big rush.

    I might further add that the staff I’ve spoken to have invariably been very helpful and efficient.

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  15. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Bevan

    The article says: “We have experienced some winter sickness among call centre staff”. Really? Who would’ve thought that staff get sick over winter…therefore EVERY department should have the same problem. To blame the problem on winter sickness is pathetic. What is IRD going to do next winter?

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  16. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Really? Who would’ve thought that staff get sick over winter…therefore EVERY department should have the same problem.

    What exactly are you complaining about by saying all depts would have the same problem? It kind of warrants a no-shit-sherlock or a captain obvious reply.

    To blame the problem on winter sickness is pathetic. What is IRD going to do next winter?

    Oh FFS, go get a clue would you – EVERY call center or IT Service Desk would have this exact problem each and every winter. The last thing anyone wants to do when they get sick is answer the phone to grumpy pricks like yourself.

    What do you expect the IRD to do? Hire additional staff for the entire year just to cover this period? No business would be able to do that unless they thought money grew on trees. The problem with you socialists is you don’t understand business realities, you have no concept of the dollar consumed to run an organization. Quell fucken surprised not many of you have ever run a successful business.

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  17. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    lastmanstanding
    Yes, we should definitely have competing tax collectors. Perhaps we could sell off the rights to collect taxes to interested corporations for cash up front.

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  18. Paulus (2,568 comments) says:

    I have had reason to call the IRD over some time and I find them to be excellent.
    I am happy to call.

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  19. capitald (72 comments) says:

    INSIDERS TOP TIP: if you are going to call the IRD call centre – call at 7.55am. You can wait on hold until exactly 8am, when the phone system will automatically drop you into the cue. You will get answered immediately. The phones there never get busy until then.

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  20. Rich Prick (1,635 comments) says:

    I find IRD’s online return system excellent in every regard – except for the final screen.

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  21. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    I’ve worked in contact centres call management in the past.

    @Kiwirupes – absolutley right – the article itself clearly states that 164,000 calls were planned for but only 131 answered. So they understaffed themselves to the tune of 33,000 enquiries – there may have been 70,000 calls missed but they were probably just those 33,000 customers calling back slightly more than twice each on average.

    @Peterwn – Callbacks are a great way of balancing the peaks and throughs in standard call loads – but if they are in a situation where they have high wait times throughout the day they should not be doing callbacks.
    Outbound callbacks take longer because they need to dial the number, wait for you to pick up and some people will not be there when they said they would (meaning a wasted call). By offering a callback service when they know they are understaffed all they are achieving is a lowering in the productivity of a chunk of their workforce meaning they answer fewer total calls in the day.
    It may seem like a good idea to the people who get called back rather than waiting – but all it has really done is meant IRD answer fewer calls in total and longer overall wait times for other customers.

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  22. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    @Bevan & Ross69
    There is a difference between “some staff had called in sick” and normal winter sickness… It is no fun at all for staff working in a heavily understaffed contact centre with barely a second to breath between calls for 8 hours straight and every single customer preconditioned to be grumpy because they have been waiting listening to horrible hold music. You have a fixed allowance of sick days a year and the pay is the same whether you take them or not.

    I suspect the anonymous manager quoted in the article if you’d asked in February would have been able to give a pretty accurate list of names of staff members who would unexpectedly fall ‘sick’ in these two busiest weeks of the year (for a start there will be the people who requested leave during that time and had it declined).

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