BESCOM customers satisfied, but staff overloaded

Public Affairs Centre (PAC), an independent non-government think tank working in the area of governance and service delivery, has recently completed an assessment of the services provided by BESCOM.

The study funded by BESCOM, used the Citizen Report Card (CRC) approach to collect feedback from users as well as the BESCOM staff to understand the quality of service delivery and issues faced by both parties.

The aim was to use the information generated through the study to find actionable remedies for issues of concern faced by both users and the BESCOM staff.

The study covered all the eight Circles and three Zones by randomly selecting 100 Sub-divisions and O&M offices (these being the focal points of provider-user interaction). Six BESCOM staff personnel working at various levels and 20 users were randomly selected from every selected Sub-division and O&M office bringing the total sample size to 2600 respondents.

Some of positive findings from the study are as follows:

BESCOM Consumers

  • Around two-third (60%) of users feel that it is easy to get a new electricity connection. This was reported the most in South (82%), East (77%), North (73%) Circles of Bangalore.
  • 40% of users said they never faced any voltage fluctuations.
  • More than 99% of users said that they regularly receive electricity bill every month and almost same (92%) said that the bills they received were accurate.
  • More than 96% users said that the timings of payment of electricity bills are convenient.
  • Two-third of (66%) users said that efficacy of staff in dealing with problem resolution was excellent or good.
  • 71% respondents said that their problems were resolved after contacting BESCOM. Among these users, 46% said that their problem was resolved on the same day
  • Around one fifth (20%) of users noticed improvements in the quality of service by BESCOM from past one year.
  • More than two-third (68%) had seen BESCOM’s recent advertisements regarding power saving methods.

BESCOM staff

  • Nearly 85% staff said that they were satisfied with the current mechanism of recognizing good work.
  • 76% of staff said that they were getting necessary support from their reporting/higher officers and of them 78% rated excellent/good support from their higher officers.

 Other major findings and policy conclusions are summarised below:

1. Getting a connection: The findings show that less than one fourth (24%) users interacted directly with the BESCOM office to get a new connection, while more than three-forth (76%) approached the intermediary / middleman / third party system to get new connection which led to an extra monetary burden on consumers.

2. Forced expenditure to maintain coping mechanisms: To cope with power cuts and voltage fluctuations, almost half of the consumers are using (47%) coping strategies to support electrical appliances, which have led to forced expenditure to maintain these peripherals even though they are paying money to get uninterrupted and quality power supply.

3. Existence of corruption: During the course of getting a connection, one-fifth (20%) of the users have not received any receipt while 11% received receipt for partial amount paid. This clearly shows the existence of an unaccountable money that goes from consumers. The existence of this pattern of external corruption has also been admitted by the BESCOM personnel – albeit an under-reported 14% of the staff.

4. Problem incidence and resolution: Almost one-third (31%) of the users had a problem with some aspect of BESCOM’s services. However, except BMAZ Zone, less than half of the users elsewhere contacted BESCOM office to get their problems resolved; of those almost three-fourth (71%) got their problems resolved. High problem incidences were reported in Kolar and Tumkur Circles with latter reporting low problem resolution. In spite of problems, there is less frequency of complaint lodging due to lack of awareness and use of informal channels.

5. Poor awareness regarding BESCOM’s information channels: Abysmal awareness levels of BESCOM’s information channels such as their information booklet (5%), Customer Interaction Meetings (0.2%), and BESCOM website (0.4%) indicates low levels of efforts towards information dissemination by BESCOM for its consumers.

6. Work overload and multi-tasking: As of now at all levels there is a shortage (27%) of working strength as against sanctioned strength and this gap is highest among the ALM/LJM (39%) and Lineman (29%) cadres. With an insufficient working staff, there is an additional burden on the current working staff who are reportedly working under nearly round-the-clock (17-24 hours) conditions especially in Tumkur, Davangere, Bangalore Rural and Kolar Circles. On the whole, each office requires a minimum of 13 personnel at all levels to meet consumer expectations for better service delivery.

There is clear evidence that work overload, gaps in sanctioned and working staff, lack of adequate materials, low quality materials contribute to the problems highlighted by the users. It could well be that these problems are more severe in some regions than others.

7. Support and loyalty among BESCOM personnel: Most of the staff got their weekly off whenever they required.   In each office only 44% staff received the safety tools while rest of the staff is yet to receive safety tools, but timely receiving of safety tools and quality of these tools was found to be good among those who required them.  About 60% received walkie-talkies but only three-fourth received training on how to use them. In terms of support, though the staff is happy with internal support, influence from outside sources does seem to have affected their work as this involvement has often been a hindrance to their daily day to day routine work.

Around two-third (60%) of the staff said that they have observed some positive changes over the past three years within the department in terms of improvement in giving good service to the public (29%), improvement in revenue collection (17%), regular power supply (12%), provision of vehicles (12%), provision of safety material (10%).

8. Satisfaction contrasts between users and personnel: One of the interesting findings of the study is the contrast between the satisfaction levels indicated by the BESCOM staff personnel as opposed to the satisfaction levels of the users. While only 52% of the users have indicated complete satisfaction with their interaction with the department, the satisfaction of the staff personnel with their performance is much higher (94%).

It is important to understand that the assessment of the users reflects their experience with the services they obtain at the Sub-division or O&M offices and since BESCOM is a service delivery entity, it needs to find ways to improve consumer satisfaction and not take comfort in the reported high levels of satisfaction mentioned by the staff.

9. Wide regional variations: There are wide regional variations on various aspects of service delivery across the Zones. It would be good to target those weak areas in the system in each of the Zones. Some of them include – the CTAZ Zone especially reflects highest proportion of problem from the respondents – more power cuts, unscheduled power cuts, difficulty in getting a connection, lack of immediate response. Since Circles and Zones vary in their socio-economic conditions and levels of development, there is a need to pay greater attention to the quality of management, supervision, and the types of training being provided in the Circles and the Zones.

Issues to be addressed by BESCOM

Highlighted issues from the study

Follow-up actions by BESCOM

More than three-fourth the users (76%) approached BESCOM through middleman for getting new connections which led to extra monetary burden on them.

  1. BESCOM has already introduced online application system for getting HT connection and plans to speedily implement the same for LT connections.
  2. In the proposed web enabled application the prospective consumer requires to come to BESCOM office only once for verification of original documents. This system to some extent will avoid the approach through middleman.
  3. Enhancing transparency through RTI and public disclosure by uploading all meeting proceedings, tender files, records Etc., in website.
  4. Further a committee named as “Process Re-Engineering Committee” comprising of consumer representative, IIMB representatives along with BESCOM officials is working on for re-engineering the existing procedures in BESCOM to enable consumer of less interaction while resolving issues with BESCOM.

Existence of corruption.

  1. Online registration of both LT and HT application will help in reducing corruption.
  2. Toll-free number for reporting corruption is available in the monthly electricity bills issued to consumers. Consumers can also report corruption complaints through BESCOM website (www.bescom.org) and social networking sites.

Lack of availability of information with staff and time taken to attend to problem are matters of concern.

  1. “Consumer Interaction Meeting” (CIM), which are conducted every month on a pre-determined schedule across all sub divisions is an effective platform for speedy redressal of consumer grievances. These meetings are attended by senior officers.
  2. 24*7 Helpline is established at corporate office and at all circle headquarters to speedily dispose the consumer complaints. Consumers can also register their complaints through online application and by just sending a SMS.
  3. All the field employees are provided with mobile SIM and all field officers are provided with mobile phones/Wireless to have quicker communication and there by speedy redressal of complaints.

Contrasts between the satisfaction levels indicated by BESCOM staff as opposed to satisfaction levels of users.
Satisfaction level of BESCOM staff is higher (94%), whereas it is about 52% among the users.

  1. Several initiatives to enhance consumer satisfaction are on the anvil. The VISION of the company is to be the number one in customer satisfaction among the power distribution utilities in South Asia
    • Training to BESCOM staff on customer service skills.
    • Filling of  vacant posts
    • On line application system.
    • Facility for online payments.
    • Fault management system (FMS) – updating the power outages in advance to the consumer registered with this system.
    • Training to Customer Care Executives.
    • Strengthening of Helpline to redress consumer grievance.
    • Automation of distribution network in Bangalore Urban areas.
    • Inviting customer representatives to Organization Review Meetings and Corporate Review Meetings.
    • Informing consumers in advance through Warning stickers about disconnections in the event of non-payment of arrears.
  2. The satisfaction levels of BESCOM staff are high due to the fact that staffs am Well taken care of by management by providing  technical training, interpersonal communication training, advance technical training in abroad, providing advance safety equipment, enabling employees to witness the proceedings of Officers review meeting and appreciation by rewards on recognition of their Work.

The report of this study is now in the public domain and available in both the BESCOM and PAC websites. The links are – http://bescom.org/en/assessment-of-bescom-services/ and http://www.pacindia.org/reports respectively.

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About Meera Nair 0 Articles
Meera Nair is a Bengaluru-based writer, translator and active citizen of Bellandur.

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