The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is making significant improvements in its call-centre services by hiring more agents, enhancing staff training and improving the accuracy of responses, the federal government announced on Wednesday.
“Our call centres remain a crucial way for our clients to reach us,” said Diane Lebouthillier, the minister of national revenue, in a statement. “Our government has chosen to invest in the agency’s services and our investments are starting to pay off. My priority remains that the agency treat Canadians as important clients and not just taxpayers.”
On Wednesday, the minister tabled the federal government’s response to recommendations made in a 2017 report from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts to improve the CRA’s call centres. The government is accepting all recommendations in that report.
The CRA is implementing a three-point plan to improve call-centre services: focus on modernizing technology; improve agent training; and update service standards. The government says its investments are yielding positive results:
For this tax-filing season, 74% of calls made to the CRA’s individual tax enquiries lines were answered (45% by an agent and 29% by automated service) compared with 37% for the 2015 tax-filing season (30% by an agent and 7% by automated service).
Last year, the CRA had an average of 2,673 employees in its call centres compared with fewer than 2,300 in 2014-15.
More than 700 CRA call centre agents have now been trained under a new program, redesigned early in 2017, to prepare newly hired agents better and to assess their readiness to leave the training environment and respond to calls.
The CRA has created a new quality assurance team to strengthen the accuracy of responses provided by call centre agents. The team will review and assess the quality and accuracy of information provided to callers and identity opportunities for improvement.
The CRA enhanced its interactive voice response system in February to add a new feature that allows callers to confirm their account balance and last payment details without needing to speak to an agent.
More callers can now wait in queue, which has reduced the number of call attempts needed to reach an agent to an average of 2.1 for 2017-2018 from an average of 3.3 in 2015-16.
The government indicates that although the results thus far represent improvement, the CRA will continue to work to improve further.
In the 2018 federal budget, the government provided the CRA $206 million over five years starting in 2018-19, and $33.6 million a year, ongoing, to enhance service services.