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Bank call centres poorly prepared ahead of autumn tax deadline

Call centre staff at half of the UK&#39s leading banks and building societies will struggle to help many callers gathering last-minute tax return information ahead of the Inland Revenue&#39s September 30 deadline, claims a survey conducted on behalf of Macro 4 PLC.

&#39Secret shopper&#39 researchers, posing as potential customers, found that call centre staff typically have inadequate on-screen access to customers&#39 bank statements, making it difficult to provide timely answers to common statement queries. Consequently, customers are often left with little option but to order duplicate statements, for which one can expect to pay up to £5 per sheet of paper (or £20 for a typical 4-page statement) and can take up to three weeks to arrive.

The survey also found that when duplicate statements are ordered, these can take up to two weeks (10 working days) to arrive – which may be too late for many people rushing to meet the self-assessment cut-off date at the end of September. Among other worrying findings, half the call centres surveyed said they could not see statements in the same format as that seen by customers – further hindering their ability to answer customer queries – and two of the top banks admitted to relying on old-fashioned microfiche technology to retrieve archived statements.

Macro 4 says most banks&#39 call centres could be significantly improved by introducing more efficient content management technology , and points to the fact that some of the banks surveyed are already using such technology to empower call centre staff. At Nationwide, for example, staff are able to instantly access exact on-screen copies of statements up to three years old and duplicate statements can also be provided free-of-charge within one to two working days.

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England vs Australia: pensions

Well, the cricket season is here, and England and Australia are stepping up to the wicket. Although we compete with each other in the sporting world, when it comes to pensions, Australia’s pension programme is held up as a model for our auto-enrolment initiative. Auto-enrolment was introduced because people weren’t saving enough into their pensions, and it is still early days but signs are positive. However, in Australia, saving into a pension is compulsory, and in fact employers are the ones who have to pay in. Employees in Australia can make additional contributions into their pensions, but they don’t have to. Should the onus be on the employer or employee to save? Well in the UK we think it’s both, but to get ‘adequate’ savings for retirement it’s the employee who has to pay more in.

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