Now as you may know, in my day job I have more than a passing interest in the way in which government does or does not live up to its claims....especially around service delivery..so here is the HMRC version of good service. Just this week, as it happens, I was told that HMRC have spent around £230M on call centres and that a punter...such as me only stands a 50% chance of getting through to them. I can't of course vouch for the accuracy of that statement but who would of thought that I would have the chance to test it out this very week.
I am, so it would seem, due a refund on my NI payments - having overpaid. Now this is a good thing, and because I have not yet received it my comments will certainly be more circumspect than they otherwise might.....
Anyway, the refund. I received the letter informing me of the good news and requesting that I filled here, ticked there, signed the bottom and returned post haste, which of course I did. A number of weeks have passed and I just wondered, in an idle moment, where it had got to. No problem, I thought, Directgov will steer me in the right direction......so I called the number given,....and I listened to the options, none of which fitted, so I pressed the obligatory last chance and last choice button, upon which I was passed to someone who would, I was assured, 'deal with me'!
I am sure it was their intention to do just that, but no, they were unable, at the HMRC, despite me giving them my NI number, to tell me anything about me, or my payments - under, over or otherwise. The result being that they decided I was speaking to the wrong people (you don't say) and that I needed another department....did they transfer me? No, I had to write down the number and redial...which I did. It was engaged, for the next 2 hours, but like Robert the Bruce's spider I persevered, and got through. And, having given them my details again, and been put on hold, it transpired they could tell me something - but only that it was another area dealing with my claim, so they couldn't help me!. I asked if he meant somewhere overseas as the number I dialed was advertised as the national number so I could only assume my claim had been sent offshore...It went quiet....and I was expecting to be given another number to ring, but not this time, variety being the spice of life, I was told I couldn't ring another number, this other area (beginning to think it may be area 51) would ring me - presumably to deal with me!
I have to say that all the staff were extremely pleasant and helpful in a 'we have poor processes but we will do the best we can' sort of way and probably resigned to the sounds of customer dissapointment as their (allegedly) £230 million pounds worth of technology cannot transfer the punter.
However, there is a moderately happy end to the story, as the most upbeat and chipper call centre person I have ever heard called me back within 10 minutes (that's the moderately happy bit) to tell me that they couldn't pay the refund.....yet, but that I was being dealt with by the exceptional case unit...As my now grown up kids would have once said - Dad, that's because you're special!!!