Skip to main content

Robotics and people make a great combination...

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Digital

...working together to improve customer service and make bigger savings. 

I’m Mark Holl, Digital Programme Manager for Paperless HMRC. As the programme name suggests we’re about working more digitally, automating processes so we can speed things up and giving a better service to our customers, as part of HMRC’s wider digital transformation plan.


We run several really innovative projects including our Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Digital Mail Service (DMS), both of which harness the power of technology AND use the input of real people to create a quality and intuitive service.

Take our DMS for example. In only 2014, we were still handling more than 17 million physical pieces of incoming post a year. Each one was delivered, opened, sorted and then redistributed by hand to the right person handling the case.

Now, DMS automatically scans mail, categorising it and then adding it to an electronic customer file. It even assigns it to the right team, who have the relevant skills and capacity to deal with the enquiry. It’s so much quicker and much more efficient than before. And, all designed and built from day one using staff ideas and input.

But, this is an Agile development, so the collaboration between staff and project is continuous. We may have reduced the amount of post we receive and automated the service but we still need to know how it can be made even better.

The most recent build released in August, based on staff suggestions, is estimated to give efficiency savings of up to 9 seconds per mail item affected. With a minimum of 3,000 cases per day this equates to a saving of 450 hours per day - a real result!

We’ve also had great results from our Robotic Process Automation (RPA) where we build pieces of software that automate our manual processes. Recently we created a dashboard for over 7,500 contact centre advisers which automatically opens up relevant case files on screen.

Sounds simple, but it’s made a massive difference to us and our customers. We've reduced staff ‘clicks’, the number of times they have to click their mouse during a call, from 66 clicks down to only 10 clicks. Cutting up to 2 minutes per call, our advisers do less dull repetitive tasks and have more time to spend on complex and interesting cases.

Higher Quality Productivity Boost Cost Saver Implementation Speed
Improved compliance/auditability

Higher staff satisfaction

Human errors eliminated

40% reduction in average handling times

24/7 running of some processes

80% reduction in processing costs

Payback in up to 6 months

Fast implementation of new service

Re-usable robot elements

RPA is another agile project built around ideas from staff, through our ‘Ideas Front Door’If we see the ideas as viable, they go to the Robotic Automation Board and if approved, they follow 4 stages of development and can go into Beta/Live in as little as 5 weeks!

We’ve already received over 200 ideas from across HMRC and we’re currently planning 30 new robotic automation projects. In fact, we’re setting up our own Automated Delivery Centre (ADC), within our existing digital delivery centres to build robotics, making HMRC a government leader in using automation software.

So for us, the key to benefiting both us and our customers is not just using the latest exciting robotic innovations to create whizzy new services. It’s about combining the technology with the knowledge and experience of our front line advisers, other HMRC people and customers, to create the best services possible. And then, when new technology comes along, make them even better, and then even better, and then even better.

Sharing and comments

Share this page