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I hate HMRC's voice recognition system - The Inept Interrogator

I hate HMRC's voice recognition system - The...

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I phoned HMRC VAL NAL with a VAT query. The phone was answered by the awful automated Inept Iinterrogator. I answered 'vat', then 'vat refund', then 'vat account' then after a few more questions including 'agent' I joined a queue. 34 minutes later the number was answered by the Employers Helpline. It turned out that even though The Inept Interrogator had confirmed my 'vat' answers it had decided I really had an employer PAYE query. The Employer Helpline adviser told me to redial and stay silent when asked what I was calling about. I did. This time I got to the old 'press 2 for vat' menu and got to the correct department but had to wait another 15 minutes to be answered so a total of 49 minutes just to get through to the correct person. Anyone else similarly frustrated with The Inept Interrogator?

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Chris M
By mr. mischief
20th Aug 2014 17:29

My stock answer is I am having a baby!

I always say "I am having a baby."  The system is programmed to recognise this, and quite often it means I get through the silly menu system quickly.

It does not always work, and you have to be ready for questions like "Are you an agent?" for which the answer does not work.  But it seems to work over 50% of the time and reduces my stress levels a lot.

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Replying to paul.benny:
Morph
By kevinringer
21st Aug 2014 08:52

Having a baby as the taxpayer or the agent?

mr. mischief wrote:

I always say "I am having a baby."  The system is programmed to recognise this, and quite often it means I get through the silly menu system quickly.

It does not always work, and you have to be ready for questions like "Are you an agent?" for which the answer does not work.  But it seems to work over 50% of the time and reduces my stress levels a lot.


Excellent suggestion. But what do I answer for having a baby as the taxpayer or the agent?
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Replying to stepurhan:
Morph
By kevinringer
21st Aug 2014 15:07

It doesn't work

I needed to phone VAT NAL again and said "I'm having a baby" to which the Inept Interrogator asked about a new child!

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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
20th Aug 2014 17:44

We all hate it but its here to stay! Unfortunately

At my last Working Together meeting we collectively did a moan to the HMRC representative about the automated interrogator.

We asked (no... amend that... begged) for it to be silenced.

She smiled embarrassingly and said that it was liked by the powers that be.

What was more worrying was that she went on to say that the system would be expanded upon to be used by other areas of HMRC.

Mr Mischief is right - saying that you are an agent never works for me

 

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By Jekyll and Hyde
20th Aug 2014 18:09

whewhere is the working together?
Sounds very much like it wasn't a working together meeting at all.

Feedback - no one likes the phone system.

Response - oh well powers at be are expanding it.

Sounds like a waste of time meeting.

As for the phone system, not fit for purpose or consumption, but falls In line with other aspects of hmrc.

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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
20th Aug 2014 20:51

Re working together meeting...

perhaps you might like to read my article on the subject of Working Together meetings before being so disparaging ....

https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/article/should-working-together-be-disba...

Date= 23 July 2014 so only a few weeks ago.

As the article states - working together is useful in some ways e.g without Working together you wouldnt have known that HMRC intend to increase the system.

Some things do get through from us on the ground to the higher echelons.

 

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By Old Greying Accountant
20th Aug 2014 21:09

Just ...

... keep pressing # then you will get through to a person, or at worst a press button menu (although you have to have elements of Sherlock Holmes about you to deduce which button, kust work on th epremise the first thing is 1, then 2 etc.- if you try it you'll see what it means).

Thre is no way I am talking to a machine.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Jholm:
Morph
By kevinringer
21st Aug 2014 15:09

#######

But OGA's recommendation to press the # key repeatedly does work. Thanks OGA. In future when phoning HMRC I just need to remember HMRC = multiple hashes.

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By johnny fartpants
20th Aug 2014 22:05

If you actually were having a baby, it is difficult to think of a more unlikely number to call then any of HMRC's "helplines". Could have delivered twins on your own before you get to speak to an actual person. Someone at HMRC didn't think that through!

Thanks (3)
Morph
By kevinringer
21st Aug 2014 08:55

All HMRC helplines lead to the same place?

I phoned the VAT NAL but was put through to the Employer's Helpline. Does that mean all helplines now go to the same place? Can I phone just one number and expect to end up anywhere? It's quite exciting. Bit like going on a virtual Mystery Tour.

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By RussellG
21st Aug 2014 15:23

Automated Advice Line

I can confirm that repeatedly swearing at it doesn't help either

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By thomas34
21st Aug 2014 15:43

And me

Rarely have reason to use the VAT helpline but did so last week. The message kept asking me if I wanted to import a motor vehicle and refused to recognise my query relating to zero rating of new build. Eventually I agreed that I really wanted to import a motor vehicle and got connected to a confused gentleman who was surprised at the nature of my query!

The trick with these prats is to treat the problem as a challenge and to devise a "work around" (as with the suggestions above). For years I used the telephone numbers for foreigners to avoid the 0845 surcharge and didn't accept the HMRC lie that they weren't making any money out of the 0845 numbers. 

My blood pressure is more important to me than worrying about a broken organisation that won't change before I retire.

 

 

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By jholmes
22nd Aug 2014 12:12

Employer helpline

OK so that has just saved me time. Normally when i am trying to get through to the employer helpline i get put through to self assessment. From now on I think i will try telling it i want a VAT refund.

Maybe its all one big aptitude test, and really we just need to work out the code:

VAT refund = Employer helpline

Employer helpline = Self assessment

Self assessment = ?????

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By cparker87
22nd Aug 2014 13:09

Quite like it

Even with my accent from t'north it seems to understand me quite well.

Good job HMRC :)

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By Paul Hawes
22nd Aug 2014 13:09

You can rush it

The usual situation goes:

What's the purpose of your call? - xxx

About xxx, is that correct, yes or no? - yes

And what is it about xxx? - yyy

About (a) yyy, is that correct, yes or no? - yes

And are you the agent or something else? - agent

You don't have to wait for the voice to finish its thing, just answer in this format as soon as the voice starts. Doesn't even matter if it doesn't get the right thing as you'll be put through to someone anyway, the only issue is if it says "I'm sorry I didn't quite get that" or something along those lines.

 

Haven't tried the # method yet, will give that a go at some point.

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By Markaccplus
22nd Aug 2014 13:24

Cuts you off!

What is most annoying about this wonderful system is its tendency to let you ask all of the questions - then cut you off because all of the "helpers" are busy.  would it not be more logical to tell you the lines are busy and cut you off before wasting your time answering the questions?

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By sarahmcintyre
22nd Aug 2014 13:34

All I know is it does not like Aberdonian accents (mine) or Fife accents (boss) one little bit... I have never got far enough for it to cut me off! Most recently called about importing a vehicle and it insisted I was asking about the Construction Industry Scheme!

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Replying to stepurhan:
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By cparker87
22nd Aug 2014 13:43

Independence

sarahmcintyre wrote:

All I know is it does not like Aberdonian accents (mine) or Fife accents (boss) one little bit... I have never got far enough for it to cut me off! Most recently called about importing a vehicle and it insisted I was asking about the Construction Industry Scheme!

Well you'll be on your own soon anyway! :)

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By Oltonite
22nd Aug 2014 13:44

I Hate it
Every time I phone with a client's PAYE query, and want the employer helpline, I always get through to the employee helpline. It seems as soon as you mention anything to do with payroll it thinks you are an employee even if you say you are not. Maybe I should try telling it I want to enquire about VAT and maybe then I will get the employer helpline.

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By Wendy P
22nd Aug 2014 14:00

Awful, awful system

I recently had to ring the employer's helpline on several occasions to try to get an answer about a refund of CIS tax, bizarrely the CIS helpline couldn't help.  I was cut off several times after getting past the interrogation, once because I said the 'wrong' thing and was told I had rung the wrong line, but most of the time because their helplines were too busy to deal with the volume of calls they had coming through.  In my opinion if the queue is too long when your call is answered you should immediately be told that and asked to ring back, not have to go through the interrogation which can take several minutes to get through, only to be told that your call can't be taken, whoever said swearing at it repeatedly doesn't help could have been in my office that day!

 

 

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By taxguru
22nd Aug 2014 14:36

As a public-facing organisation, that is not known for customer satisfaction, any improvement should be aimed at taking it closer to agents and taxpayers. Whoever invented this non-sense should understand that it can only take people away from them.

Back to deep breathing/relaxation techniques and yoga before calling HMRC!  

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By raybackler
22nd Aug 2014 18:11

It should win the Edinburgh Festival Comedy Award

Having read all of the above comments, I can only say it is laughable.  Seriously, it is comedy.  Whoever went ahead with this should be put in front of Margaret Hodge and pilloried.  It is worse than useless, it is an affront to business and a disgrace to HMRC.

And now my own experience.  First, I hung on so long the battery on my cordless phone went dead after about 45 minutes.  Second, after answering that I was an agent, I was asked if I had a 64-8 in place.  No one, not even the biggest accounting idiot on earth would hold on waiting for this inept service on the off chance that the 64-8 might not be in place. Third, like most other callers, I had to go through the comedy roadshow asking useless questions where the answers were not understood.  I was trying to discuss a clients PAYE account, because the Online Tax Dashboard was wrong.

Moving on to the Dashboard, my client was shown as owing National Insurance in month one of the tax year,  10% of this was refunded in month two and 90% was refunded in month three.  There never was any national insurance filed via RTI.  No one could explain how it got on the account and when I requested the refunds in months two and three be put back into month one to cancel it I was informed that as the client was on quarterly PAYE payments, it was correct by the end of the first quarter, so they didn't understand my problem.  We process the payroll, but the client handles his own CIS and pays it monthly.  He looks up Dashboard to get the PAYE due to pay monthly on top of the CIS and needless to say his payments, through no fault of his own were all over the place.

Going to have a cold beer now as it is Friday night before a bank holiday!!

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By North East Accountant
26th Aug 2014 08:17

Who would have thought that we would welcome back the old press 1, 2 etc with open arms!

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Replying to Ruddles:
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By Jekyll and Hyde
26th Aug 2014 10:43

Now we know the real reason behind it all.

North East Accountant wrote:

Who would have thought that we would welcome back the old press 1, 2 etc with open arms!

So very true. 

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By Carolynne
26th Aug 2014 13:13

At what Cost to Us too!

I would also like to mention that the time costs and phone costs (regardless of the 0300 numbers) to agents, is getting ridiculous. (Especially when you are on hold for a minimum of 20 minutes before getting through).

 

And even after going through the 64-8 information, you are asked questions again, once through. 

 

The reduction in people who actually know what they are talking about, instead giving us  'call centre' type people who have to pass you to a technician half the time (or you wait 3 days for a return call - when you are not going to be sat with the client or have that particular file with you if you are out of the office -not), makes this whole system untenable.

 

I was on the phone a few weeks ago for 1 hour!  And half of that time was because the person who I got through to couldn’t help me, then I had to go back in the loop of being on hold to get to the right person.  As the voice activated system got it wrong.  We need dedicated AGENT lines for all departments.

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Morph
By kevinringer
26th Aug 2014 13:55

Get rid of ...

... the annoying recorded message 'there is lots of information on our website'. Doesn't HMRC realise we will have already looked and we are only phoning HMRC because the information isn't on the website? The message only takes about 5 seconds to play but multiply this by 80,000,000 calls HMRC receives a year = 110,000 hours a year. This is the same as having 66 fulltime workers on hold all year. This is a cost of about £750,000 at NMW rates. How much more time (=money) could be saved by making the process more efficient from the user's perspective?

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Morph
By kevinringer
27th Aug 2014 09:49

####### no longer works

But saying 'I want to talk to someone' after saying the tax in question does work - for now.

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Replying to tractorboy:
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By Old Greying Accountant
28th Aug 2014 08:48

Try ****

kevinringer wrote:

But saying 'I want to talk to someone' after saying the tax in question does work - for now.

********** just have to do it lots and lots - there is no way I am talking at a machine, if it gets to a point I cannot get through I shall be routing everything through my AAM.

The system just about sums up the adversarial arrogance of HMRC - they need to remember they are our servants, not our masters (and that goes for government, councils and all public servants these days)

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By grahamstone1
27th Aug 2014 11:23

Will someone also tell them

Its Not Haitch MRC but aitch MRC! That puts me in a confrontational mood before I even get to pressing buttons and hanging on for the obligatory half hour because I'm in a queue. What is it with the British and queing?

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