​Cultivating Better Call Centers

Jan 31, 2019

Every year, millions of taxpayers turn to the IRS for help with their taxes. Although the IRS continues efforts to direct taxpayers to its online services, many taxpayers will call into the IRS with their questions and tax authorities cannot neglect their phone lines and call centers. In total, the IRS gets over 100 million calls on its toll-free lines every year. For over 20% of people, the phone lines were their preferred method of contacting the IRS. Some don’t have easy access to the internet,while others feel more comfortable over the phone. For some kinds of questions, phone calls are the most popular method of communication. The more complicated and involved a tax question is, the harder it is for a taxpayer to get a satisfactory answer online. Regardless of their reason for calling in, phone lines are an important source of information for a lot of taxpayers and they have a right to expect quality service. When taxpayers get the help they need over the phone, they have a better understanding of their tax responsibility and their next steps. Metrics can help us improve both the taxpayers’ satisfaction with the tax call center, as well as their tax compliance.


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One important metric for customer satisfaction is level of service (LOS). LOS refers to the success rate of taxpayers who manage to reach a representative when calling for assistance. Due to long wait times, many people hang up before they reach a representative. A recent survey identified long wait times as the main reason taxpayers couldn’t resolve issues on the phone. Technologies such as Virtual Hold, which allow customer representatives to call back taxpayers as opposed to having the taxpayer wait on hold, or Scheduled Callbacks, which allows the taxpayer to schedule a window for a call back, can reduce wait times and improve LOS.

Merely getting through to a representative isn’t enough to guarantee good service, however. The most important metric for determining taxpayer satisfaction is First Call Resolution (FCR). FCR refers to the percent of calls resolved on the first attempt, without the representative needing to transfer the taxpayer to a colleague or supervisor or calling the taxpayer back. FCR allows us to track whether taxpayers feel like they are getting the help they need from call centers. A high FCR not only helps with taxpayer satisfaction, it also reduces call volume, as taxpayers are able to resolve their issues with a single phone call. Achieving an FCR of 80% would result in an average of 1.2calls to resolve a taxpayer’s issue.

Measuring FCR accurately can be a challenge. Call centers tend to inflate their FCR performance by around 20% when self-reporting as compared to customer surveys. Call centers need to ensure they are getting quality feedback from callers. A variety of methods can be employed to improve FCR reporting, including:

  • Telephone Survey: Taxpayers are called back within 1-3 days and asked if their question was answered.
  • Scripts: Representatives ask the taxpayer at the end of the call if their question was resolved.
  • Interactive Voice Response Survey: Taxpayers complete a survey at the end of their call.
  • Call Backs: Track whether the taxpayer calls back within 3-5 days.
  • Case Management Software: Track customer problems using software.

These methods can help ensure that tax authorities have an accurate sense of whether customers feel like their issues are being solved in the first phone call.

Tracking metrics like LOS and FCR helps tax authorities increase taxpayer satisfaction with call centers. Technology and analytics can streamline call centers and make it pain free for taxpayers, or any caller, to call in with their questions. Products like RevHub Call Center Calibrator can help call centers track their analytics and give actionable insights that can improve taxpayer’s experience.