HMRC’s Voice recognition telephone system – How do you find using it?

In November 2013, HMRC replaced some of the touchtone Interactive Voice response (IVRs), which asked callers to press a number on their keypad to select an option from the range given, with Intelligent Telephony Automation (ITA), a speech recognition technology. Since its introduction improvements have been made and HMRC is looking to keep developing the system further.
 
We are still receiving reports from members that in addition to the problem in getting through on the phone, ITA is frustrating to use and it is difficult to get through to the right person straight away.
 
Post a comment to let us know your view of HMRC’s ITA system
 
HMRC has also asked us for feedback on what works well and what is still causing you difficulty. Please help by letting us know your experience of the ITA system by posting a short comment. Some of the areas on which you may wish to comment are:
 

·        What line did you call?

·        What were you calling about?

·        Did the system understand your subject matter?

·        Did you get through to an adviser who could help straight away? If not, how many times were you transferred?

·        Was the adviser able to deal with you query?

·        Were you disconnected?

·        What suggestions do you have to improve the system?

 
Please note that ITA was not introduced on HMRC’s Agent dedicated lines, but was implemented on the following lines:
 
PAYE                                      0300 200 3300
Self Assessment (SA)             0300 200 3310
VAT                                         0300 200 3700
Tax Credits                              0345 300 3900
Child Benefit                            0300 200 3100
Payment Enquiry Line             0300 200 3401
Employer Helpline                   0300 200 3200
National Insurance                  0300 200 3500
 
The ITA system consists of two elements. First, an open menu which provides a speech enabled call routing ‘How can I help you’ approach. ITA intends that callers will be asked at least two questions before they are put through to either an adviser or to a message that answers their question. The second element of ITA is Identity & Verification (ID&V) which provides speech automated security using known facts about the caller to verify their identity when they have a specific query about their account.
 
Useful links
TAXtools 1: HMRC contact information in one place
  • I have mixed success with ITA.  Sometimes it works fine (the ID verification is more limited in scope and therefore easier to programme and make work, because that always works), sometimes it repeats questions when it has not been able to interpret the response, and sometimes it is not good.  My worst experience was when I answered the opening question with 'The taxpayer has died', and the system asked me to confirm that I wanted to ask about maternity benefits.  I got through to an adviser eventually by using different words.
  • Basically - it is a pain!

    I rarely find that it works well, it just serves to frustrate as it keeps mistaking the responses given, even when they are direct repeats of the "suggested" words.

    Bring back a live body to talk to!

  • I had an interesting experience with this

    I initially asked for " Bereavement Service " and I was then asked to explain the nature of my call
    I stated that it was in relation to an income tax repayment for someone who had died recently and was then asked...

    " Is the call about your own affairs ? "
    After saying " No. I am still alive ! " someone picked up the phone

    What a terrible way to treat " customers " or whatever it is they call us these days
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I find it very frustrating. As Kim says, it just keeps mistaking the responses given. 
  • INFURIATING.

    On the other hand one of my funniest moments of 2014 was listening to a recording someone posted on twitter, of them trying to get through HMRC voice recognition system on VAT MOSS. So it provided a slight bit of entertainment as well as loads of pain.
  • I am surprised that callers have problems in being recognised by the ITA speech recognition system.

    Nevertheless, and  I know that  it is not always easy, but if the system doesn’t understand what you are saying, has anybody thought of speaking with a different accent?

  • I am sorry +Nigel Kingsley, but it should NOT be necessary to speak with a different accent. The system should be robust enough to cope with ALL the various lovely accents we have in this country - first time, every time.
  • It doesn't understand me!  And my queries are usually too complicated to put into a nice short phrase that is going to be recognised.  More wasted time.
  • I agree with you Kim, but obviously is doesn't do what it is meant to, therefore until it does, it is no good just speculating.

    In fact as you are no doubt aware, negative remarks about the system have been made by various persons since the introduction of the system in 2013, and if you use an online  search engine, it will come up with a large number of these.

    However because of your remarks, and also because I am on the Working Together committee (Brighton), I have spoken to HMRC who were quite receptive to the comments I made. The person spoken to did agree that the system was not perfect and added that it has improved from what it was, and also it was currently under review. Obviously this is one step in the right direction.

    Working Together have made the appropriate representations in the past, but I am sure that if HMRC were approached by the Tax Faculty, together with CIOT etc, this might get things moving in a more positive direction.

    I would add if people reading this have any suggestion(s) as to the course of action needed, that they should post their comments accordingly.

  • My colleagues say I speak relatively slowly and clearly and have no obvious accent.  Invariably the system cannot understand what I say. Agent-driven queries are a no-no as it doesn't seem to be able to cost with 'client'.  Infuriating.  
  • I tried to use the system to sort out my tax affairs following my wife's death. It didn't at first take notice of my answers but kept repeating itself. Eventually, I was offered several options none of which was relevant. I only managed to speak to a real living person when I answered that I had just had a baby, a physical impossibility. There is no substitute for real living people.

  • My recommendation would be to bin the system until they've tested it properly and are confident it works well.  Also to give me a way to duck out of it and go straight to a human.  To make me a crash test dummy for HMRC's systems when I'm trying to resolve tax issues for clients is not acceptable.