Getting the message across - the importance of good communications
A HMRC case study

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Page 4: Methods of communication

The best communication methods succeed in putting across the right message in a clear, unambiguous way that gets noticed by the target audience, whilst also saving on time and cost. Good communicators succeed in choosing the best medium of communication for the particular purpose in mind. For external communications, the Inland Revenue typically uses:

  • Written communications dispatched by mail e.g. statements detailing tax liabilities and payment schedules. Paper-based items sent by mail have the advantage of providing a clear, fileable statement that is likely to reach its intended recipient.
  • Oral communications: customers can 'phone in' with their queries. They can also speak directly to the employee who is managing their account. Oral communication allows most misunderstandings to be resolved immediately.
  • Face-to-face communications e.g. a visit to the local office by arrangement. This can save time and subsequent communications.
  • Online communications. Today consumers can complete their Tax Return, claim tax credits and do a variety of other business with the Inland Revenue directly online, thereby saving a great deal of time. An important advantage of this method is that ongoing 'help' is provided by pop-up help facilities. This is a cheap, quick and efficient means of communication.
  • Advertising on TV and in the press e.g. to alert people to tax payment deadlines or to eligibility for tax credits. By this method the Inland Revenue is able to communicate with millions of customers cost effectively.

The Inland Revenue uses similar methods for internal communications e.g.

  • Written communications - internal memos, staff magazines, notices or posters on staff notice boards.
  • Oral communications - phone conversations between employees.
  • Face-to-face - team briefings, meetings and presentations.
  • Online - internal e-mails and intranet.

Face-to-face conversations and oral communications make possible more detailed discussions to clarify issues. Written communications provide clear statements of discussions and their outcome can be recorded and filed. Online communications have revolutionised ways of working by providing fast, cheap and efficient ways of interacting that can easily be stored within files.

Online communications can also be easily edited and shared between teams of employees working together. For example, a customer's account details can be accessed both in a local office and in the central tax-paying department in Glasgow, simultaneously.

HMRC | Getting the message across - the importance of good communications