Before the world of possibilities opened up to us by the wonders of modern technology and the internet, customer complaints involved a strongly-worded letter that went straight in the bin upon arrival or an arduous trip to shake fists at a nonchalant manager. These days, your customers are armed with a dangerous secret weapon: social media and they certainly aren’t afraid to use it, which is what HM Revenue & Customs found out the hard way.

Hell hath no fury like a consumer scorned and when a disgruntled customer takes to social media to express their disdain, it can be pretty detrimental for a business of any size. Social media HMRC Customer Feedbackplatforms like Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter are fast becoming the preferred method of communication between brands and customers, which is great for boosting online visibility and cultivating a digital reputation. However, with every silver lining comes a cloud and this time it’s negative customer feedback.

Wherever you look there are people of all ages wandering around with their heads buried in their smartphones or clutching their precious tablets, which means they now have the ability to crush your business at the very touch of a button. All it takes is one app and 140 characters or less to tell the Twittersphere exactly what they think of you whether it’s all good things or all bad. Scary, right? HMRC are amongst those who have fallen victim to the latter recently but it seems they might have had it coming.

HMRC keeps callers waiting even longer

You would think that after a whopping £900m investment into the department in 2012, HMRC might have even slightly improved its customer services but evidently not. Figures released last month demonstrated a dramatic increase in the time callers spend waiting to connect to a representative when calling the HMRC call centre.

In March of this year, the average wait length for customers trying to get through to an adviser was 14 minutes and 22 seconds, which is a substantial hike from the 2 minutes and 44 seconds that was spent waiting during the same time in 2014. So you can hardly blame the 1.1million customers who gave up and terminated the call before getting through to HMRC or those who took to Twitter to express their frustration.

Tweeters revolt against Revenue & Customs

Official figures have shown that the tax collection department was pelted with a rain of 11,500 negative tweets during the last 12 months from customers failing to receive the information they needed. Complaints regarding tax credits, income tax, National Insurance contributions and child benefits were the most covered issues and naturally, the busiest times for angry tweeters were January, June and July, ahead of self-assessment deadlines and the dreaded tax credit renewal date.

Citizens Advice CEO, Gillian Guy, said: “People are paying the price for not getting through to HMRC. From fines for not completing a tax return in time to under or overpayments for tax credits, people can be left out of pocket because they cannot speak to HMRC on the phone.

“There is already a clear demand to be able to speak to HMRC. With the rollout of Universal Credit and big changes to tax credits just around the corner this is only going to grow. HMRC needs to urgently address the problems many people are experiencing with phone lines.”

Earlier this year, HMRC encouraged its customers to use Twitter to discuss their enquiries in an attempt to alleviate the pressure of its growing backlog of irate callers despite MPs dubbing the suggestion “laughable”. Well, they certainly got what they asked for but perhaps not quite with the intended sentiment. Let’s hope the new contingency plans HMRC has put in place to help rectify the call wait length situation brings about some positive online coverage because shining customer reviews are equally as powerful as bad reviews.

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