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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 22/09/2008 :  07:44:01  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Alan, I agree that HMRC staff are generally too frightened to stand up for themselves, let alone us, but it does happen from time to time - persecutor becomes friend. This recent article from our supporter Ken Frost may shed some light on why everyone's so terrified now about putting a toe out of line, never mind their foot...

Careless Talk Costs Lives

There is something of a siege mentality in HMRC these days.

I am advised that HMRC "management" are so worried about the leaks from their sinking vessel, that they have warned all staff not to go to the media about any internal cock up or management stupidity.

In fact, as you have all seen on this site, HMRC "management" are so afraid of being exposed as being useless that one of their lackeys recently posted comments here slagging this site off and talking up "management initiatives".

Here is some free advice to those "in charge" of HMRC, management by fear does not work.

Tax does have to be taxing.

HMRC Is ****e (You must be logged in to see this link.), also available via the domain You must be logged in to see this link. is brought to you by You must be logged in to see this link. "The Living Brand"

There's also the results of a ballot on strike action by HMRC workers suggesting they may go on strike soon for better pay. Perhaps better working conditions, too. I'm not going to write them all off yet, but whilst we've had some support from our 'insiders' recently, there's a keen sense of fear and their heads are not going so far over the parapet these days compared to what we we seeing a little while back. There seems to be a culture of punishment and fear. When the proverbial finally does hit the fan, it is going to be spectacular. With any luck and justice, meltdown at HMRC will happen before the next election, rather than after, but happen it will.

Trinity: The answer is out there… and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.
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auntieh
Rank; Really should become a politician



United Kingdom
625 Posts

Posted - 22/09/2008 :  18:08:23  Show Profile Send auntieh a Private Message
Very interesting - wonder how much that proposed court case is going to cost the innocent taxpayers of this country. As usual, well worth reading through Ken Frost's latest comments. Not necessarily Tax Credit related but very illuminating with such astute comments.

Auntie

"You can dress a pig in a suit but you can't stop it grunting"
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 23/09/2008 :  17:51:42  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Thanks Auntieh - I didn't realise until you posted your comment that Ken's made another blog entry - and this time about HMRC taking EDS systems to court to get back the £71.25 million compensation for their naff IT systems! Amazing, considering that HMRC want the money back twice - once from EDS and then again from us! Only the taxman could get to have their cake and eat it too...

I particularly like the bit that HMRC, if it sues EDS, will have to answer questions about its own naffness (if that's a word). HMRC are truly kings of naff, and out-naff anyone. It almost makes me want EDS to win!!!!

Trinity: The answer is out there… and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 10/10/2008 :  08:00:28  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
I suppose there's nothing to stop any HMRC 'insiders' contributing to our 'Diary of the Damned', is there?

Maybe an opportunity for some whistleblowing?

It's here: You must be logged in to see this link.

Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 25/04/2009 :  06:31:10  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
For the benefit of any HMRC Insiders who might want to join us, I will repeat the info given by our previous Forum Administrator on keeping your anonymity (thanks, FTC):

Mainly for the benefit of whistleblowers or anyone with privacy concerns
How to preserve your anonymity:
Use a throw-away email address, hotmail or yahoo etc
(do not use your service provider email address)
Do not publish your email address on the forum
Do not make posts from your of place of work.
Do not use a sign up name that you use on other sites, especially if an obscure name. A common name is ok (provided of course it isn’t already taken on this forum)


Always use the Logout button when you leave the forum (especially if using a shared pc)
Always clear your cookie and history files (if particularly concerned)

On sign up do not give your real name or real location


That's how it's done.

Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 25/04/2009 :  06:43:55  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Worth repeating, I think, because there's evidence all around that Helpline workers and other tax credit workers don't derive much job satisfaction from their roles at the sharp end. If only Brown, Darling or Timms could spend a day working at the TCO listening to the heartbreaking calls from people suddenly plunged into innocent indebtedness to a heartless and bureaucratic system!

Here's just one example:

Contact centres
A life in the day

As Contact Centre members prepare to vote in the forthcoming ballot for industrial action, a telephone advisor describes a typical working day. We have withheld the author’s name

8.59am: Arrive in work in my shorts and T-shirt. It’s mid-January but you would never guess as the temperature is about 28ºC – I look on the bright side, at least I’ll get to feel some heat this year….there isn’t a chance I’ll be able to take any leave in July for my summer holiday with the lads – tax credit peak puts a stop to that, but hey, I might make £100 from not having a holiday and what with no pay rise, that might come in useful.

9.00am: Sign on to my aspect telephone but my computer takes about eight minutes to load my systems. My manager is immediately over to my desk asking me why I haven’t pressed ‘ready’ yet. I answer innocently: ‘… because I’m not ready, I have no systems...’ So my manager presses ‘ready’ for me and one of the already irate customers in the queue of 168 screams down my ear – another day, another below inflation dollar, I think.

10.15am: Press ‘ready’ following my 15 minute break. I make sure I’m back at my desk early as if I’m 59 seconds late I’ll be on the ‘non-adherence list’ and my manager will soon be trying to discipline me: three strikes and I’m out. The chilling sound of the word ‘overpayment’ comes through my headset and fear runs through my body. I’m not trained in handling debt management and every call is a nightmare. How do I try to encourage a single mum on income support to pay back £6000 in less than 12 months? My manager tells me to get on with it. She says as long as I follow the call-type process I’ll be OK. The call type process doesn’t tell me what to do when the customer asks me how she will feed her children…when will the day end?

2.15pm: Lunch is over and it’s now time for our ‘buzz session.’ We have to stand up for 15 minutes to encourage positive energy – it’s difficult to maintain that positive energy when your manager is telling you to cut your call times, improve your quality and stop taking breaks – ‘all hands on deck for the peak’, she says, but when we’re understaffed by about 40%, there’s not many hands available.

2.45pm: Pop myself into the unscheduled break code for a visit to the toilet – all that water (to counteract the heat) is taking its toll! Make my way down the centre towards the break area when a hand is placed firmly on my shoulder. It’s my team leader asking why I’m taking a break 30 minutes after the buzz. Apparently a toilet break should only be taken when a DSE break is required, so I’m not allowed to go for another 30 minutes. Breaks are a privilege, not a right apparently – so much so that scheduled breaks are now referred to as complimentary breaks – compliments of whom, I wonder? Roll on 5.30!

5.29pm: It’s one minute until the end of my shift and I’ve just finished wrapping up my call. I breathe a sigh of relief and start to close down my systems. Suddenly that firm hand appears on my shoulder again to tell me to stop sitting in wrap. I explain that my shift is due to finish in about 30 seconds but my pleas fall on deaf ears. My manager presses ready on my phone and another call comes through, I hear the dreaded ‘overpayment’ whisper in my ear… Looks like another late finish for me.


You must be logged in to see this link.

So it seems that it doesn't come naturally for Helpline workers to enforce a system where parents being able to feed their children is an optional extra once the all-important surprise tax credit bill is settled. People working in this environment are quickly going to be desensitised to others' suffering or if they cannot "switch off" from claimants' hardship and misery, they will end up with their own mental health, job satisfaction, morale, self-esteem and eventually relationships in tatters.

More will speak out if they feel safe doing so, or if the end justifies the means.


Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
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baconfries
Rank; Hector Tax Inspector



1 Posts

Posted - 14/09/2009 :  23:58:58  Show Profile Send baconfries a Private Message
i'm a sad HMRC employee, working in tax credits, the place is hell to work in, you have to reduce call times to under 5 mins and keep wrap (closing up calls, sending referral, writing notes and the only time you can drink you water/drink/coffee if you have 100 odd people waiting) under 1 and a half min - at max, all at the same time trying to provide the best customer care to the customers...it just doesnt work, so some people don't get the attention they deserve and we on the phone get the brunt of it, all because of pointless and wrong guidance... we get a slap on the wrist, fail in coaching if we don't ask if someone's child care costs have changed during our proactive question stages of the year, even if they called the day before to change it...and more, wnt to know more send me a message
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TCC Webmaster
Admin



Virgin Islands (United Kingdom)
148 Posts

Posted - 18/09/2009 :  21:04:50  Show Profile Send TCC Webmaster a Private Message
Hi Baconfries,

Sent you an e-mail on the day you posted your message. I haven't had any response from you yet, which isn't really any great suprise. Anyone can say they work for HMRC .....

If you're serious, get in touch.




The original 'point & click' interface was a Smith & Wesson !!
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 19/09/2009 :  06:37:16  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
<< Anyone can say they work for HMRC ..... >>

I wouldn't

I'd be too embarrassed!!

"The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions.

In this way the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed."

Adolf Hitler
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missfoxee
Rank; Hector Tax Inspector



United Kingdom
8 Posts

Posted - 05/10/2009 :  11:31:49  Show Profile Send missfoxee a Private Message
whistleblowing is not against the law in fact our union protects them from any diciplinary action....... food for thought there


United We Stand......Divided We Fall

May We All Count As One Voice.
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Simpatico
Rank; Hector Tax Inspector



14 Posts

Posted - 16/02/2010 :  01:53:41  Show Profile Send Simpatico a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ali M-W



So it seems that it doesn't come naturally for Helpline workers to enforce a system where parents being able to feed their children is an optional extra once the all-important surprise tax credit bill is settled. People working in this environment are quickly going to be desensitised to others' suffering or if they cannot "switch off" from claimants' hardship and misery, they will end up with their own mental health, job satisfaction, morale, self-esteem and eventually relationships in tatters.



It is very easy to become de-sensitised to something like that when you hear (and I say this not un-sympathetically) variations of the same story every day. Sounds blithe but it's either that or go round the twist, I guess.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 16/02/2010 :  07:43:09  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Would you say that you have to detach in order to do the job? And do you sometimes get to the stage where you can't?

I have heard that the bosses are unsympathetic and that even toilet breaks are carefully monitored and timed. Calls, too. Sometimes we hear that there is a time limit on calls, but at other times that, because the Helpline number is closer to the costs of a Premium rate call than a local one, operators are encouraged to keep people talking, or at least, hanging on. What would you think is closest to the norm here?

I also wondered if workers were given the chance to debrief after any particularly stressful calls? I know someone whose husband had a heart attack from taking a call, and sometimes there must be situations where the worker has a very distressed and frightened "customer" for whose welfare they must be genuinely concerned. What happens then?

I ask because we see this from the claimants' side, but it must often be a horrible job from the workers' perspective if they have to give bad news, and I am doubtful of the support HMRC gives its frontline staff being of the quality you would expect elsewhere.



Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 16/02/2010 :  12:56:11  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Simpatico

quote:
Originally posted by Ali M-W



So it seems that it doesn't come naturally for Helpline workers to enforce a system where parents being able to feed their children is an optional extra once the all-important surprise tax credit bill is settled. People working in this environment are quickly going to be desensitised to others' suffering or if they cannot "switch off" from claimants' hardship and misery, they will end up with their own mental health, job satisfaction, morale, self-esteem and eventually relationships in tatters.



It is very easy to become de-sensitised to something like that when you hear (and I say this not un-sympathetically) variations of the same story every day. Sounds blithe but it's either that or go round the twist, I guess.



Aye, I know what you mean. I too became "de-sensitised" in my attitude towards HMRC staff during my fight with them (which I won)

There is, after, all a limit to the number of times I can stand hearing variations on the same "I was only doing my job" or "I am only a small cog in a very large machine" excuses.

Those excuses didn't wash at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after WW2 and they sure as Hell don't wash with me now.

I do however, have some sympathy for the HMRC frontline lads & lasses and would say that if ever there was a need for a strong, active & efective Trades Union then the working conditions at HMRC is that need. As for the "management" they should be shot at dawn.


"The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions.

In this way the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed."

Adolf Hitler
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Simpatico
Rank; Hector Tax Inspector



14 Posts

Posted - 16/02/2010 :  18:02:11  Show Profile Send Simpatico a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ali M-W

Would you say that you have to detach in order to do the job? And do you sometimes get to the stage where you can't?

I have heard that the bosses are unsympathetic and that even toilet breaks are carefully monitored and timed. Calls, too. Sometimes we hear that there is a time limit on calls, but at other times that, because the Helpline number is closer to the costs of a Premium rate call than a local one, operators are encouraged to keep people talking, or at least, hanging on. What would you think is closest to the norm here?

I also wondered if workers were given the chance to debrief after any particularly stressful calls? I know someone whose husband had a heart attack from taking a call, and sometimes there must be situations where the worker has a very distressed and frightened "customer" for whose welfare they must be genuinely concerned. What happens then?

I ask because we see this from the claimants' side, but it must often be a horrible job from the workers' perspective if they have to give bad news, and I am doubtful of the support HMRC gives its frontline staff being of the quality you would expect elsewhere.



Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.



You definitely have to detach in order to do the job properly. There are cases where naturally people are upset and there are people who habitually call just have a moan or whatever. As you do the job more you get to be able to differentiate between the two but sadly there is often not a lot we can do for people, due to the limitations of what we are allowed to do. Of course some calls are more upsetting than others, but - and I realise this probably sounds heartless though I can assure you that many of us in there that are not - it is necessary to divorce your own feelings from that of other people otherwise we would constantly be tied up in knots over other people's problems.

Some people do get very distressed over having to deal with so many calls per day where people are either very upset, abusive or even sometimes threatening, which is part of the reason the attrition rate is so high.

Call times and toilet breaks etc., are very heavily monitored, though in all honesty I have never heard of bosses encouraging people to stay on the phones from a cost/money-making point of view, however agents are encouraged to keep people on the phone to minimise wrap times (supposed to be 2 minutes or under on average per call) and call times (in total including wrap) are supposed to be around the 6 minute 30 seconds mark. The problem is there is no hard and fast guidance re: the amount of time off the phone for things like toilet breaks or getting a drink. I agree that these times shouldn't be set in stone (lets face it, some days you just need to use the loo more than others) but there's no cohesion between management styles and what is and isn't acceptable so it often just leads to disillusionment and bickering between staff.

The option is always given by managers to "take a short break" or "have a chat" after a difficult call. Calls (which are thankfully rare) where a child or claimant has passed away can be particularly upsetting, and they do make allowances for this up to a point. However if an agent has a genuine concern over the well-being of a caller than there is no process in place to have this looked into further, the general air of "don't get involved" seems to be in force, and of course, once the caller has hung up what else are people encouraged to do but take another call. I'm sorry to hear about the person who had the heart attack though, I can well believe the stress level of that person reached a critical point - it does in many of us sometimes - and I hope that they are ok.

Despite this, sometimes the job is okay (seriously!) and there are people out there who are genguinely grateful and thankful when things do go right, it's just that sadly the whole system and process needs completely overhauling as it goes wrong all too often.

Tax credits could genuinely be a great thing, and if you think I'm saying that just for the hell of it, you would be wrong. It's got potential to be the assistance to families and low-paid workers its meant to be, but it's just a shame that that day seems to be a long way off in coming at the moment.
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Simpatico
Rank; Hector Tax Inspector



14 Posts

Posted - 16/02/2010 :  18:08:17  Show Profile Send Simpatico a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Alan the Geordie

>>Same with HMRC employees. If bosses are hearing day after day that their employees are suffering work-related stress due to having to live with their consciences at the way they are forced to treat honest, law-abiding people, they will eventually realise that they can no longer serve their masters - this ailing government - without strongly feeding back what they hear from their employees.<<

Aye, it's a canny idea Ali, but it isn't going to happen.

The truth is that HMRC are so shyte scared of "The Management" and of losing their jobs that they won't even say BOO to a goose!

They can't even summon the courage to fight for themselves so there's little chance of them doing anything for us.

Balls?? they'd struggle top find a single one among the whole lot of them!! What a bunch of spineless, gutless wonders!!




As much as I don't often tell people they are wrong, in this case I am doing so.

Naturally people want to protect their jobs - when the wage is relied upon to feed their families, wouldn't you? - but there are some of us out there with enough savvy to realise what is going on right before our very eyes and taking that attitude and calling people names is not a way to garner sympathy or encourage people to want to help.
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 16/02/2010 :  18:10:41  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
<< Despite this, sometimes the job is okay (seriously!) and there are people out there who are genguinely grateful and thankful when things do go right, it's just that sadly the whole system and process needs completely overhauling as it goes wrong all too often.

Tax credits could genuinely be a great thing, and if you think I'm saying that just for the hell of it, you would be wrong. It's got potential to be the assistance to families and low-paid workers its meant to be, but it's just a shame that that day seems to be a long way off in coming at the moment. >>

And so say all of us!!

Simpatico; many thanks for your contributon. It IS appreciated.

"The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions.

In this way the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed."

Adolf Hitler
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 16/02/2010 :  22:39:30  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Simpatico

quote:
Originally posted by Alan the Geordie

>>Same with HMRC employees. If bosses are hearing day after day that their employees are suffering work-related stress due to having to live with their consciences at the way they are forced to treat honest, law-abiding people, they will eventually realise that they can no longer serve their masters - this ailing government - without strongly feeding back what they hear from their employees.<<

Aye, it's a canny idea Ali, but it isn't going to happen.

The truth is that HMRC are so shyte scared of "The Management" and of losing their jobs that they won't even say BOO to a goose!

They can't even summon the courage to fight for themselves so there's little chance of them doing anything for us.

Balls?? they'd struggle top find a single one among the whole lot of them!! What a bunch of spineless, gutless wonders!!




As much as I don't often tell people they are wrong, in this case I am doing so.

Naturally people want to protect their jobs - when the wage is relied upon to feed their families, wouldn't you? - but there are some of us out there with enough savvy to realise what is going on right before our very eyes and taking that attitude and calling people names is not a way to garner sympathy or encourage people to want to help.



I'm not after the "sympathy vote" and do appreciate that just like everywhere else there are some folk with enough savvy to realise what is going on within HMRC and are willing to help, it's just a matter of finding them!

If you're one of them then I really am very pleased to meet you - Welcome to TCC!

"The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions.

In this way the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed."

Adolf Hitler
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 17/02/2010 :  08:19:29  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Simpatico, I hope your experience of call-handling with stressed and perhaps sometimes angry claimants will have given you the strength to recognise that nothing is actually personal. On this forum you'll see claimants condemning HMRC staff, just as I am sure you and your colleagues will have shared a laugh about "odd" behaviour from a caller at some time or other. The beauty of hanging about on this forum is that, if we can get over the them/us mentality which is part of being a human, we will reach the stage when we each get to understand the other's perspectives better.

I have always believed that HMRC workers can help us reform a system that, perhaps, isn't being fair to anyone. Of course you won't like claimants who turn abusive (although sometimes from intense stress or anger at perceived or real injustices) or who seem to be on the fiddle, just as we don't have time for workers who have already assumed we are idiots or cheats before we have said a word. Thankfully, both kinds of people are, I am sure, the minority.

Please don't let the odd harsh comment drive you away. I am genuinely very interested in what you hasve to say, and if I didn't have to head for my own day job now, would ask you more!

Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
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Simpatico
Rank; Hector Tax Inspector



14 Posts

Posted - 18/02/2010 :  14:27:52  Show Profile Send Simpatico a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ali M-W

Simpatico, I hope your experience of call-handling with stressed and perhaps sometimes angry claimants will have given you the strength to recognise that nothing is actually personal. On this forum you'll see claimants condemning HMRC staff, just as I am sure you and your colleagues will have shared a laugh about "odd" behaviour from a caller at some time or other. The beauty of hanging about on this forum is that, if we can get over the them/us mentality which is part of being a human, we will reach the stage when we each get to understand the other's perspectives better.

I have always believed that HMRC workers can help us reform a system that, perhaps, isn't being fair to anyone. Of course you won't like claimants who turn abusive (although sometimes from intense stress or anger at perceived or real injustices) or who seem to be on the fiddle, just as we don't have time for workers who have already assumed we are idiots or cheats before we have said a word. Thankfully, both kinds of people are, I am sure, the minority.

Please don't let the odd harsh comment drive you away. I am genuinely very interested in what you hasve to say, and if I didn't have to head for my own day job now, would ask you more!

Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.



I know what you're saying, and that's all true and okay.

If you want to ask me something then that's okay too and I will answer to the best of my knowledge and ability.
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splashin
Rank; Really should become a politician



Belize
730 Posts

Posted - 18/02/2010 :  15:11:51  Show Profile Send splashin a Private Message
Simpatico

I know myself how difficult it is working on the helpline, been there, seen it, done it. There are many hard working advisors, who strive to do a correct and professional job. But then you also have to look at the business side of the helpline, with this I mean statistics and what targets we have and making these achievable. So I am fully aware of how difficult it is when you are supposed to do a professional job whilst on the telephone, whilst meeting targets required.
I personally believe the system would operate much better if all advisors on the helpline where trained in full to use the NTC core system, rather than just CMA. This would then allow them to take the call, find out what needs to be done, implementing this right through to the end. Job done. Advisor's know then that what they have done, is what was requested by the claimant. Job Done.. It would also give back some job satisfaction to HMRC helpline employees.
I don't think when working the helpline, you should become detached. I think a good approach is to try and put yourself in their shoes. And empathize with them basically. If they rant and rave at you then you need to control the call, you have been trained for this type of call handling, reading off the computer screen is a big no no, I personally would prefer an automated recording than an adviser reading word for word from the computer call process screen. BUT how can helpline staff be confident that what they are doing is going to be done, when this claimant has called 18 times to give the same information? There are reasons for keeping the 2 systems separate, 1 main reason is fraud. But I can't see any problem with all HMRC Tax Credit Adviser accessing NTC, to make changes whilst the caller is still on the telephone, if they have done security checks and the claimant has passed, then they have passed. By putting it onto 1 computer system to await transfer to then be input onto NTC core is wasting time.

Simpatico, Am I right saying your using CMA as your only system or do you have access to NTC core?



Splashin
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