Headlines: September 6th, 2000

Customers of the National Insurance Contributions Office (NICO) are now able to carry out a much wider range of business by phone, including applying for National Insurance contributions refunds.Regulations have been passed which enable Inland Revenue to accept the bulk of National Insurance contributions business by telephone and in due course, electronic communications such as e-mail.

In the future NICO’s new telephone operation will be extended to enable customers to provide information through the Internet. Under old regulations customers who wanted to notify NICO of changes affecting their National Insurance liability or apply for a refund of overpaid contributions, had to do so in writing.

This all-ways means of the customer accessing public services is something highlighted as missing in attempts by the local government sector to meet its modernisation targets.

Research from the Customer Contact Company (C3), has revealed that 73% of Local Authorities are currently relying on the internet as a means of communicating with the public. In many cases this is being introduced as a stand alone option, isolated from the telephone or face to face access.

Forty per cent of councils are looking at using the internet without first giving due attention to what people actually want, according to the survey.

There is also a criticism that IT companies are being allowed to drive the implementation of customer contact strategies.

C3 is anxious that digital television and the internet are being seen as cheap ways of maintaining customer contact, without the need for the higher cost of personnel manning call centre