"How may I help you?" are the most soothing words for a distressed caller who has a query to ask or a problem to resolve after having been on the phone for quite some time. Considering the complexities of Goods and services Act, it goes without saying that the taxpayers as well as Departmental Officers would have tonnes of queries about just everything. In order to ensure hassle-free implementation of the GST, CBEC has tasked Directorate General of Systems with setting up of a helpdesk that would act as a one-stop shop for all the needs of taxpayers as well as Central Government Officers.
CBEC Mitra is not the name of just the Central Government helpline but a grievance redressal and information system of Central Board of Excise and Customs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. It was observed from the experience of running ACES help desk that people called the help line number for following:
Some require information
Some require rectification of defects/bugs in the software application
Some are suggestions for improvement of the application to make it more user-friendly
Some require changes in policy/laws or procedures
The existing ACES Servicedesk also caters to issues faced by users while paying the tax online on EASIEST (Electronic Accounting system in Excise and Service Tax) portal. Users mostly lodge complaints about payment failures, updation of records, etc. Though the e-payment facility would be handled by the common portal in GST regime and not CBEC’s portal, CBEC Mitra would guide the callers suitably for payment related issues as well.
The unique feature of this service is that it provides three modes of registering the complaint or suggestions. Apart from a toll-free phone number and sending emails, web-ticketing can also be resorted to. One may come to Central Government’s GST website and use the ‘Help’ tab to submit his query or complaint online. He would get a token number for his complaint which he can quote for future reference. The Central Government officers can use this facility either through the website or through the option provided inside the CBEC GST back-end application.
CBEC Mitra is a free of charge service. Unlike the help line numbers of telecom provider companies where the caller has to pay 50 paise per three minutes, CBEC Mitra is completely toll-free for all the callers. The same number can be dialed from landline as well as mobile phones.
CBEC Mitra is unique in the sense that it is one of the few round-the-clock helpdesks. One can call at any time on any day as it runs 24 x 7 throughout the year. Very few government departments or private companies provide such a service. This is an improvement over the ACES Service Desk which runs from Monday to Friday 9AM – 7 PM, on Saturdays- 9AM – 2.30 PM (except on Central Government Closed holidays) and Monday to Saturday 9AM – 7 PM and on last Sunday 9AM – 7 PM apart from working of closed Holidays also during the Service Tax peak Return filing periods ( i.e.1st of October to 25th of October and1st of April to 25th of April).
Another unique feature of CBEC Mitra is the feedback mechanism. It is important to check if the callers are satisfied with the service they get from the helpdesk. Hence depending on the severity of the tickets issued, a percentage of the total calls would be selected. CBEC Mitra help desk would call these complainants manually or record their response through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) pre-recorded message. If a person has sent an e-mail to the helpdesk, he would get an email responding to his query and seeking his feedback.
A feature that is being introduced for any CBEC help desk for the first time is an SMS system. Users can track the complaint of their complaint/query by quoting the acknowledgement number using the toll-free SMS service.
Utmost care will be taken to ensure the user satisfaction for CBEC Mitra by appointing helpdesk agents who are at least graduates and have at least a year’s experience of working as helpdesk agents. The privacy of the callers and their sensitive information like PAN, phone number, address, etc would be protected.
Callers may have problems with not just the back-end application (software) but also connectivity, legal procedures or simply problems related to the front-end common portal being created by another company. Though it is a problem unrelated to the CBEC GST back-end application which CBEC Mitra caters to, the caller would be allowed to narrate his complaint and then would be guided to the concerned help desk or authority.
An Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) is being introduced by CBEC for the first time to greet the caller and help him identify the nature of his problem before he’s connected to the Mitra agent. This IVRS would also announce the expected waiting time for the callers in the que to inform them how long they might have to hold before a Mitra agent comes on line. Even if a caller disconnects before a Mitra agent attends his call, the caller’s number would be registered and the Mitra agents would call him back to prevent the callers from the trouble of repeated calling.
It was noticed that in F.Y. 2015-16, ACES helpdesk received 78, 447 emails and 1, 93, 386 calls. In F.Y. 2016-17, up to 31st August 2016, the number of emails and calls received are 50, 382 and 87,819 respectively. In 2016, 137 issues related to e-payment on EASIEST were also reported to ACES Servicedesk and all of them were resolved.
In the last 18 months, never has the number of pending tickets gone beyond 100. This was possible due to prioritisation of the tickets.
It is pertinent to mention here that in the last 18 months, never has the number of pending tickets gone beyond 100. This was possible due to prioritisation of the tickets. Since the number of calls and emails in the GST regime is expected to quadruplicate, the Mitra agents would continue to triage the tickets raised to the callers into priorities - Critical, high, medium and low. Hence a caller may rest assured that his query would be responded to. Classification and monitoring of the tickets would be done through specialized software.
To have an impartial, third-party check on the quality of CBEC Mitra helpdesk, DG systems would also be involving Directorate General of Taxpayer Services in assessing the needs and response of feedback for continuous improvement.
Operational from December 2016, CBEC Mitra would also cater to queries related to Central Excise, Service Tax and ACES (Automation of Central Excise and Service Tax) along with GST.
Operational from December 2016, CBEC Mitra would also cater to queries related to Central Excise, Service Tax, ACES (Automation of Central Excise and Service Tax) and EASIEST (e-payment of Central Excise and Service Tax) along with GST.
Goods and Services Tax implementation is an ongoing and incremental process. It is only with the comments and feedback from the taxpayers and the administrators that GST implementation can be made friendly for all and its flaws can be reduced. Hence, it is requested to all to spread the word about CBEC Mitra and make maximum use of this facility.
The entire contents of this article are solely for information purpose and have been prepared on the basis of relevant provisions and as per the information existing at the time of the preparation by the Author. Compliance Calendar LLP and the Author of this Article do not constitute any sort of professional advice or a formal recommendation. The author has undertaken utmost care to disseminate the true and correct view and doesn’t accept liability for any errors or omissions. You are kindly requested to verify and confirm the updates from the genuine sources before acting on any of the information’s provided hereinabove. Compliance Calendar LLP shall not be responsible for any loss or damage in any circumstances whatsoever.