Getting a scam phone call from the CRA is something that happens pretty often. However, talking to the real CRA and actually getting answers to your questions doesn't happen often or quickly. According to a new review, CRA wait times are so bad over the phone that it caused the government agency to get a D grade.

It's not a great start to 2020 for the CRA's call centre

The government agency was given an overall D grade on its fourth report card from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) which cites the long wait times and a decrease in the quality of service and information people got from the call centre as reasons for the almost failing grade.

200 secret shoppers called the CRA's business enquiries line and the wait times were excessive along with the drop in the quality of service.

According to the report card, the agency's standard for calls is that 65% of callers talk to an agent within 15 minutes. 

During the test calls, 59% of the secret shoppers reached an agent within that time but the longest wait time to speak to an agent was actually more than 40 minutes.

When it came to speaking to a second, senior agent, the average wait time was 59 minutes with the longest being more than two hours.

The CRA has made some improvements to its phone system which pretty much eliminated busy signals and improved the ability to connect with an agent. 

However, the CFIB stated that the first agents seem to have more limits on what they can answer so more calls are transferred to a second agent which is where the really high wait times were seen.

So you have to wait a while to actually get answers to your questions even if you were connected to an agent within 15 minutes of calling.

In that time you could probably get more than one scam call from people pretending to be the CRA.

While the agency's call centre didn't do so well with wait times, it did well in other categories like when it came to people actually getting through to someone, its website, and the accountability of its agents.

Etienne Biram, CRA spokesperson, said in an emailed statement to The Canadian Press that the government agency is already working on improving service like giving estimated wait times and allowing callers to keep their place in line without staying on hold.

"We are also making continuous improvements to our web content, and will soon introduce a chatbot to help make it easier for Canadians to find information online," he said. "These are just first steps. We know there is more work to be done, and we are taking steps to better meet Canadians' needs."

The CFIB's report card recommended that the CRA improve the accessibility of the call centre, ensure accurate and timely information is provided and expand specialized services among small businesses

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