The way in which Ministry of Railways, under Suresh Prabhu, has been successful in utilising a social media platform like Twitter to redress railway passengers’ complaints in real time, will soon become part of the curriculum at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad.
The Ministry of Railways has become a role model for other ministries on how a social media platform can be used to reach out to customers in real time rather than just using it as a platform to indulge in a public relations exercise.
Professor Sunil Maheswari, who teaches Human Resources in IIM(A) and has taken up the study on the use of Twitter by the Ministry of Railways, told The Sunday Guardian that he was inspired to study the subject after reading media reports on how passengers’ grievances were being solved through Twitter.
“Indian Railways is a huge organisation with over 14 lakh employees and so many divisions across different states. The primary focus of this study is how one single tool (Twitter) is being used internally by the railways to disseminate information and how, on the basis of one tweet by a passenger, railway officials across the country get active. I want to study how the whole operation is planned and executed and how a quick response is solicited from the railway officials concerned to help the railway passenger,” Maheswari said.
Professor Maheswari has already started interacting with the stakeholders of this study.
“Work has already started on this, but it will take some time. The study will be part of the curriculum that we are going to teach the students. We are doing this for a purely academic purpose. It is going to be a long process and it is serious research that we have undertaken. Since we are very sensitive about the accuracy of the data, once we are sure about the numbers, only then will they be introduced in the classes,” he said.
According to the professor, to get a complete idea of how things work, he will visit the Ministry of Railways and meet all the stakeholders, apart from meeting the officers in different divisions, zones, the Railway Board and also interact with users who have utilised Twitter to raise their problems.
“Using social media to communicate with passengers is a very innovative idea since they are connecting directly with the public and redressing their grievances in real time. They are also getting feedback from customers and stakeholders in real time which is very useful,” he said.
According to him, non-redressal of a complaint satisfactorily was a big challenge for the railways as it leads to extreme unhappiness if customers’ problems are not solved.
Last month, a railway passenger passed away in a moving train while travelling between Balia and Kolkata after he fell ill and despite numerous attempts by his relatives, who were travelling with him, to seek help from railway officials, he could not be provided with medical help.
Despite Prabhu pushing for quick responses to tweets sent by passengers, many senior officers are still reluctant to reply to tweets as this means an “increase in their responsibility and accountability”.