"Managing service quality is managing the business"
– Dr. Armand Feigenbaum
The Webster's Dictionary defines Quality as the "degree of excellence" that can be achieved while Service is defined as "work done by one person or group that benefits another". The responsibility of quality is not the sole preserve of the quality professional, but of all. Hence, we at Ujjivan cultivate a Total Quality Management environment where the approach is centered on quality through active participation of all members. The microfinance industry is a people-centric operation where the behaviour and service focus of frontline workers are critical factors in customer satisfaction.
Ujjivan saw an accelerated growth in its first 5 years of operations in terms of customer acquisition and outreach into various geographies of the country. Hence, Ujjivan set-up a dedicated Service Quality program (Department) aiming to leverage its relationship with the customers, developing it into a deep and meaningful one. Below given are the key initiatives that were undertaken by Ujjivan in the area of customer care, protection and retention. The focus in past 4 years was to amplify key functions such as expansion of customer care and customer retention program, widening the reach of financial awareness for customers, implementing best practices in client protection and strengthening the customer grievance redressal mechanism.
As a result of its continued efforts to improve quality of customer service, Ujjivan has been awarded Client Protection Certification by Smart Campaign at the Microfinance India Summit 2013 and scored high in "Code of Conduct Compliance Assessment" conducted by M2i Consulting.
Fair Practices Code and Grievance Redressal Mechanism
Ujjivan has adopted a Board approved policy on Fair Practices Code & Grievances Redressal Mechanism which provides operating guidelines for effective dissemination and implementation of responsible business practices and to constantly review the functioning of grievance redressal system. Ujjivan follows various guidelines issued by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Fair Practices Code for NBFC-MFIs and has adopted Industry Code of Conduct developed by MFIN (Microfinance Institutions Network). Ujjivan has also implemented adequate global standards of Client Protection Principles.
The policy of the company focuses on fair practice with borrowers including promoting transparency, reliability, self-discipline, data sharing, recruitment practices, whistle blower protection and enforcement mechanisms. All the Board Members and senior management personnel have affirmed their compliance with the Fair Practice Code.
Grievance Redressal Mechanism at Ujjivan
Ujjivan has adopted a well-structured client grievance redressal mechanism and provides customers a reliable and easily accessible interface for timely and fair resolution of enquires & complaints. The policy aims to minimize the instances of customer complaints through proper service delivery and review mechanism. Ujjivan offers multiple levels of contact and escalation points for customers to seek their queries resolved promptly. Some of its key features are:
- The three levels of formal Grievance Redressal System are Customer Care Representatives (CCR) at branch level, National Toll-free Customer Helpline and Regional Grievance Redressal Officer respectively.
- Ujjivan has various channels for receiving customer complaints like enquiries or complaints are received at field, customer walk-ins at branches, customer call-ins, whistle blower (Ujjivan employee who gives complaint against a colleague) and external complaints received from government agencies, RBI, community associations, etc. on behalf of the customer.
- Ujjivan uses software for documenting and tracking customer grievances. The turn-around time for all complaints in between 3-5 days.
- Escalation Matrix is present in case the complaint is not solved within a given timeframe.
Staff & Customer Education on Code of Conduct & Grievance Redressal Mechanism>
To ensure an effective implementation of Code of Conduct and Grievance Redressal Procedures at its true spirit, Ujjivan undertakes several initiatives to educate its customers and field staff.
Internal Control & Review Mechanism
Service Quality Department is authorized and responsible to monitor effective implementation of the Fair Practices Code and Grievance Redressal Mechanism. A consolidated report on functioning of the grievance redressal mechanism is submitted to the Board on quarterly basis.
With a view of maintaining continuous relationship with customers and to seek their feedback proactively, Ujjivan launched Outbound Calls to its clients by partnering with professional call-center service providers.
Ujjivan constantly reviews its products, services and its responsible business practices in-order to achieve higher customer retention rates and longtime relationship with its client. The key drivers of this impressive retention rate were innovative field, credit and backend process supplemented with strong comprehensive service quality programs such as:
- Strong and independent credit approval systems
- Reduction in loan turn-around-time thru document management system (DMS)
- Strong customer feedback and grievance redressal mechanism to proactively resolve service issues
- Greater transparency of services, terms and conditions which are being effectively disseminated to customers thru various channels
- Retention Interviews to retain dormant and dropout customers were conducted by Customer Care Representatives who are appointed at all mature branches
- Customer retention campaigns were executed on ad-hoc basis
Extension of repayment window
We have followed a standard monthly repayment collection window for customers. Customers pay their installment on an agreed week day between 10th and 16th of a given month. The new core banking system allows us to have three different repayment windows in a month so that customers can choose their preferred date as per their cash flow and convenience. We undertook expansion of repayment window program to improve branch efficiency and productivity. This has helped in increased back-end productivity, better customer service due to reduced 'loan turn-around time' and improved staff efficiency.
Service Quality Awards
Ujjivan awards its employees for outstanding service provided to the customers. In June 2010, Ujjivan instituted a Service Champion Award program to recognize all such employees. This is given to an employee who has provided exceptional service to a customer or her family. So far 79 such champions have received this award including 19 for the year 2014. The award consists of a merit certificate, a letter from the Managing Director and a cash gift. The award winners are further given recognition in the Ujjivan's monthly newsletters, employee's annual diary and through individual emails from the National Leadership Team.
Creating financial awareness
Post-crisis in 2010, Ujjivan embarked on resolving the main issues and problems faced by customers and generally prevalent in the industry. With the help of grants from Unitus and Lok Foundation, Ujjivan developed a Program focused on creating financial awareness and preventing malpractices in the sector.
Sankalp – a TV soap format film available in 10 Indian languages – is based on real life customer stories, highlighting the problems and dangers of over borrowing and ghost (sub) lending. It also introduces the concept of a credit bureau and emphasizes the importance of building a positive credit history. The film has had tremendous impact on over a million customers.
This film serves as a case study in the State of Practice report from the Centre for Financial Inclusion on Client Protection in Microfinance. It is showcased as an approach to counter the dangers of over-indebtedness, one of the client protection principles.
"…the film explains the concept and importance of a credit bureau, and the importance of building a positive credit history. This effort to educate clients about the concept of a credit bureau distinguished Ujjivan from its peers."
Assessment & Recognition
- Ujjivan was awarded Client Protection Certification by Smart Campaign at the Microfinance India Summit 2013, making it only one of the few MFIs in the country to be recognized by the global organization for its strong adherence to the customer protection norms.
- Ujjivan underwent for "Code of Conduct Compliance Assessment" conducted by M2i Consulting, an independent agency, during January-February 2014. Ujjivan received high score of 91% on COCA dimensions and 100% score on adherence to RBI directions which denotes "Excellent Adherence"