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Sick of being the bad guy, UK taxman needs YOU(?) to help it be more 'customer-centric'

HMRC seeks AI, voice, digital engagement bods as part of tech group's overhaul

The UK's taxman is attempting to reposition itself as user-friendly, advertising a set of "customer experience" roles – including AI and voice – in its tech group as part of an overhaul of its operating model.

HMRC isn't exactly renowned for a glowing customer service record and its attempts at digitising services have received, at best, lukewarm responses.

At worst, they have been slammed by businesses and parliamentarians, and investigated by the UK's data protection watchdog.

In 2017, the department recruited a new chief digital and information officer, Jacky Wright – who was later revealed to still technically be on Microsoft's books – and she decided a new approach was needed.

The new operating model Wright has in mind is aimed at changing HMRC's approach to working with users to paint a friendlier face on the enforcer – and, of course, make it easier for citizens to pay their taxes.

The department has this week advertised for a set of brand new roles within Wright's team, which HMRC said would be "pivotal" in efforts to create a "more customer-centric service to internal and external customers".

The areas covered by the new heads of business roles, which are all offered at salaries of up to £100,000, should be of little surprise to observers, including hyped tech of the moment AI and voice.

The recruit for the latter role will be responsible for designing, implementing and optimising voice tech including natural language processing, smart assistant and voice biometrics.

It comes as HMRC is being probed by the Information Commissioner's Office over its database of 7 million-plus voiceprints of Brit users, gathered – according to critics – without the proper legal consents.

The candidate information pack doesn't make mention of data protection or privacy, though it does say applicants should have strong "negotiation and conflict resolution skills" and experience in "multiple aspects of voice services technology".

The head of business for AI will be responsible for "ensuring HMRC is at the forefront of AI and Machine Learning advancements" and responsible for providing aligned governance and oversight of all AI work the division does.

Further roles are advertised in digital engagement – individuals that will have overall ownership of all customer and agent-facing websites, apps and other channels like webchat or SMS – and cognitive care solutions.

The cognitive care exec will have to devise a strategy to shift legacy channels to a "more digitised, targeted, predictive and personalised contact model" and apply "breakthrough innovations and technologies" in cognitive care to HMRC's work.

HMRC's megabucks recruitment drive also includes a head of enterprise cloud services, advertised at £115,000, and not to be confused with the head of Crown Hosting listed just last week.

This role will be responsible for a "secure, consistent and reliable" framework of cloud services across HMRC and for promoting the cultural changes the department will need to embrace the fluffy stuff.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given all this hiring activity, HMRC's CDIO group is also seeking an HR director to help bring in staffers to fulfil Wright's long-term strategy for the taxman. ®

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