Client contact

In 2010-11 we faced challenges in delivering client contact services, with an increased workload and changing expectations. Despite this, we performed well, delivering 20.3 million client contact services, compared to 16.3 million in 2009-10.

Overall, there was an increase of 24% compared to 2009-10 for enquiries received by phone, over the counter, in writing and by email. These were mainly enquiries about the timing of refunds as well as increased calls for debt payment arrangements.

TABLE 4.10: Number of client contact services delivered, 2009-10 to 2010-11

Client contact services




Phone calls received




  • general calls




  • tax practitioner calls




Self-help calls received




e-Respond enquiries




General shopfront visits




Inbound correspondence processed








Inbound phone calls

An increased telephony workload and higher than expected staff turnover presented a challenge for our contact centres this year. The number of phone calls we received increased by 9% over 2009-10. This resulted in some variability in service at times during the year. We also had difficulty meeting demand in the later months of 2010-11 as we moved to a new national telephony platform. However, we met our telephony service standards for the year overall.

During 2010-11, inbound call volumes increased, particularly enquiries about income tax returns. Pleasingly, a greater number of taxpayers used our self-help services to obtain the assistance they needed.

The average time it took to complete an enquiry also increased by 12%. Some of this increase resulted from our staff becoming familiar with our new income tax processing system, as well as more complicated enquiries relating to debt, business and superannuation.

Staff attrition was significant throughout the year, particularly among experienced people capable of handling the most complex calls. Much of this churn was to other areas of the ATO. While we recruited replacement staff, it took a considerable amount of training before they could handle complex calls.

In 2010-11 we invested in additional training to enable our people to complete enquiries without the need to escalate to other areas of the office. This is consistent with our 'first contact' approach to resolving queries.

Client contact feedback

The challenges we faced with inbound calls led to an increase in complaints relating to our telephony services. We received 8,046 complaints in 2010-11, a 61% increase over 2009-10. The majority of this increase occurred between March and May when we experienced the longest average wait times.

This year, we resolved 44% of complaints during the initial call, rather than escalating the complaint through a 21-day resolution process.

Despite an increase in complaints about our telephony services, community feedback confirmed an overall high level of satisfaction, with 80% satisfied with their most recent experience telephoning the ATO.

Improving our service

This year we increased the use of our 'rendezvous' service - offering a call-back option during periods of high call volumes.

We provided dual computer screens to our telephony staff to improve our service. The dual screens allow quicker and easier navigation between our systems and technical reference guides. We expect this to reduce the time taken to respond to taxpayer and agent queries, as well as having occupational health and safety advantages for our employees.

We deployed new telephony infrastructure across our national contact centre network. This modern platform will significantly improve how we channel calls to the right team. It will also help us learn more about the types of calls we receive so we can provide better scripting and address root causes.

Self-help interactive voice response

Self-help applications deliver services to taxpayers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This enables taxpayers to complete various transactions when it suits them without having to speak with us.

During 2010-11, we provided self-help services to 2.3 million eligible callers, with 1.8 million callers (76%) not requiring our personal intervention. The number of calls received via the self-help interactive voice response in 2010-11 increased by 55% over 2009-10.

In 2010-11 we also introduced a new self-help service allowing individuals to prove their identity before speaking to us. This ensures we are ready to focus on the enquiry when we answer a call.

Inbound correspondence

We consistently maintained our monthly performance, meeting our 85% service benchmark for 11 out of 12 months of the year - despite redirecting staff to other work, including national disaster support.

We processed 5.0 million items of correspondence in 2010-11, an increase of 61% on 3.1 million items in 2009-10.


We provide an email enquiry service, eRespond, for individuals. This is a general service and does not provide specific information about an individual's circumstances. During the year we responded to 18,966 eRespond enquiries, down 3% on last year.


While we encourage people to deal with us online, we continue to provide face-to-face service through our shopfronts. Our shopfronts received a total of 541,934 general visits, 18% less than in 2009-10. Approximately 39% of these visitors required an interview to answer their enquiry.

During the year we piloted a range of shopfront services through co-location arrangements with Centrelink and a migrant resource centre.

We offered full shopfront services from the Centrelink Customer Service Centre in Biggera Waters, Queensland. We also offered self-service facilities and/or appointment services from the Centrelink Customer Service Centres in Chatswood and Penrith in New South Wales, Joondalup in Western Australia and a migrant resource centre in Rockdale, New South Wales. There were a total of 14,254 tax-related visits to these centres.

Given the success of the pilot we will continue shopfront services from these Centrelink locations; full service commenced at the Rockdale Centrelink Customer Service Centre in May 2011.

In 2011-12 we will be moving to a co-located arrangement with the Department of Human Services in Geelong, Victoria. We are planning similar arrangements in other areas, including Albury, New South Wales and Canberra.

People can phone us on 13 28 61 if they need additional assistance or if they want to make an appointment with one of our officers. We also list the locations where people can visit us on our web site.

During the year we closed our dedicated shopfronts at Chatswood and Hurstville in New South Wales and Upper Mount Gravatt in Queensland.

Key performance indicator

Maintain quality and practical means of assistance




90.2% achieved for quality assurance

90.8% achieved for quality assurance

90.3% achieved for quality assurance

    Last modified: 31 Oct 2011QC 28036