Until 2004, municipal services in Jamshedpur were provided by the Town Services Division of Tata Steel Limited. The division provided regular water supply and was reasonably successful in meeting customer needs. However, the growing population and urbanisation in the city’s peripheral areas limited the capacity of the division to effectively provide services. In view of this, the Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company (JUSCO), a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Steel, was established in August 2003, to provide utility services including water supply, power supply, waste management and other allied civic services to a part of the Jamshedpur Notified Area Committee. At present, JUSCO’s operational area spans 56.67 square km.
Over the last decade, JUSCO has taken several initiatives including metering, installation of supervisory control and data acquisition systems at water treatment plants and geographic information system (GIS)-based mapping to increase its operational efficiency. Besides, the utility has taken steps to improve customer satisfaction – setting up of the Grahak Sewa Kendra (a customer helpdesk), and installation of “any time” payment machines (for utility bill payments) and online systems for billing enquiries.
In 2004, JUSCO established a 24×7 customer grievance redressal cell, Sahyog Kendra, to effectively address the grievances of the over 60,000 customers under its jurisdiction. Through this facility, customers can register complaints for all services through a single integrated agency. The initiative has helped the utility to enhance responsiveness to civic services and make its service standards uniform across locations and customer categories.
Customer grievance redressal initiative
Prior to the establishment of the Sahyog Kendra, each civic department had its own complaint redressal cell responsible for addressing complaints. However, as the redressal agencies were different, the complaint redressal time and quality varied across departments, leading to customer dissatisfaction.
To address this issue, JUSCO established the Sahyog Kendra, a single-window complaint logging and follow-up system, to handle all customer complaints. Under the system, all complaints are tracked and monitored from a single point. This enables the creation of a centralised database that provides information about the quality of services being provided by JUSCO, and the quality gap between the service benchmark and the actual service level.
Customers can lodge complaints related to services including water management, solid waste management and power by dialling the centralised complaint redressal number. The complaint is registered in a central database, and is sent to the respective departments for redressal. This reduces the need for direct contact between customers and service providers. Further, there is a provision for registering repeat or recurring complaints with the Sahyog Kendra. This complaint registration is followed by an in-depth analysis of the last complaint, the nature of action taken and the reasons for non-redressal of complaints on a permanent basis.
At present, the system has eight service categories classified as town electrical, integrated customer service, water management, planning engineering and construction, public health, fleet management, billing and customer care, and horticulture. For administration purposes, the area under the Sahyog Kendra has been divided into seven zones that have been mapped using GIS technology.
To ensure that complaints are addressed within the service level guarantee (SLG) period, a system of job prioritisation has been introduced. In the event of complaint redressal delayed beyond the SLG period, an automatic escalation of priority takes place, and the higher officials are informed about the delay. Apart from this, the facility maintains a follow-up list to ensure timely redressal of complaints. Officials at the Sahyog Kendra randomly call 100 customers on a daily basis for their feedback on services. Based on the feedback, the service level expectation, which is the average time that elapses before the complaint is addressed, is estimated to improve the service quality and the customer experience. The utility also assigns specific outcomes and performance measures for services in order to ensure that its employees and field staff are trained to meet operational efficiency and service delivery requirements.
Advantages and the way ahead
The Sahyog Kendra initiative has brought about key changes in the grievance redressal mech-anism by replacing the conventional top-down models with an advanced mechanism. The facility has streamlined the process of complaint registration by reducing the number of customer contact points from 16 to 1. According to the latest data, the overall redressal of customer complaints within the SLG period has reached 93 per cent. Moreover, owing to the efforts of JUSCO, the SLG period has reduced significantly in certain cases. For instance, the SLG for pipe leakage complaints has reduced from 3 days to 1 day. This has led to an increase in customer satisfaction and a reduction in persistent follow-ups from customers. Also, access to real-time information about customer satisfaction and expectations has reduced the time lag before redressal action is taken.
The initiative has been widely recognised and JUSCO won the “Customer Service and Complaint Management in Water Distribution” award instituted by the Indian Utility Knowledge and Networking Forum in February 2014 for outstanding efforts in the area of customer service and complaint management. In 2009, it was presented a national award for customer service and complaint management by the central government.
To conclude, even though the complaint redressal mechanism for the area under JUSCO has improved significantly, the service delivery and redressal mechanism in the remaining area of the Jamshedpur urban agglomeration faces several challenges. JUSCO’s initiatives to improve service delivery and customer satisfaction will serve as an example for other utilities to learn from and take similar steps to improve civic amenities.