SA support survey: Volume up, satisfaction steady

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With 100 replies to our online survey, John Stokdyk monitors how HMRC and developers are coping with technical and software problems arising from the growing Self Assessment workload.

Nearly half of the 100 support calls reported in the survey went through to HMRC, with 29 fielded by the dedicated agents’ line and the other 18 by the main SA helpline.

Half of HMRC’s agent queries were resolved within 10mins to the callers’ complete satisfaction and two-thirds of the calls achieved an 80%+ satisfaction rating. In contrast, the main SA helpline was less successful, with only half of callers going away better than 80% satisfied. Taken together, just under two-thirds of callers to the two HMRC helplines were 80%+ satisfied.

As a comparison, 82% callers to commercial software support lines were similarly happy with the advice they got. Survey sponsor TaxCalc had the highest number of reported calls, all of which were rated by users as 100%; only Digita, with a far smaller sample achieved the same satisfaction rating. Here is the current rundown of the ratings for the software support lines:

Suppliers

Calls

Fully satisfied

TaxCalc

14

100%

IRIS etc

13

77%

Sage

7

71%

BTC

6

83%

CCH

3

67%

Digita

3

100%

Forbes

2

50%

Keytime

2

50%

The difference in satisfaction ratings will reflect the wider variety of technical queries HMRC has to deal with compared to suppliers of specific programs. But the software support teams were also faster to respond than HMRC - 45% of calls queries resolved within 10mins compared to 27% -  suggesting that the department still has some way to go if it is going to achieve private sector levels of customer service.

At this point in January, we would expect the Self Assessment workload to be on the rise, and this is showing up in our survey, where the highest number of support calls by type were as follows:

Technical SA queries

15%

SA filing errors

14%

Tax software queries

13%

Incorrect PAYE codes

7%

UTR/registration

5%

Partnership returns

4%

The PAYE coding errors are worth watching as the month progresses, as they may indicate that HMRC hasn’t completely reconciled the huge backlog caused when its new computer system was introduced in 2008-9. Two of the UTR queries recorded above also related to missing partnership returns and references, so this also might be an issue worth monitoring in the run up to 31 January.

Calls relating specifically to tax software functions accounted for 13% of the survey sample, but alongside SA filing return problems,  Corpoartion Tax rated as the second most frequent reason for support calls (14%), 10 of which related to online filing and iXBRL issues.

If you have had an occasion to contact either HMRC or your supplier’s support lines, please help us monitor their performance by taking part in the Self Assessment support survey. There will be a prize draw at the end of the month for an Apple iPad.

About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight

AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.

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