Anubhutie Singh, Beni Chugh, Srikara Prasad
Read the policy brief here.
The importance of user-centric grievance redress mechanisms (GRMs) in creating user-forward products or services cannot be overstated. A well-designed GRM allows users to voice their complaints and seek redress when their expectations are not met with or when they experience harm. It instils confidence in users and demonstrates the provider’s commitment to addressing their issues effectively. Moreover, GRMs can serve as user support systems, helping users navigate services and improve their overall experience. Additionally, analysing grievances received through GRMs can provide valuable insights to providers, enabling them to improve their services and better meet users’ needs. This research presents a framework comprising nine principles, which we believe are pre-requisites for creating user-centric GRMs. In addition to the 9 principles, the framework contemplates design features bring the principle to life. Consequently, the framework is a combination of 9 principles and a checklist of 61 design features that together guide the creation of user-centric GRMs. This checklist aims to assist public and private providers, and other organisations to create user-centric GRMs or evaluate the user-centricity of their existing grievance redress channels. The questions in the checklist lend themselves to binary responses. However, the objective of this checklist is to not elicit quantifiable scores, but a rich description of the CGRM to contemplate the interventions that may be required and appropriate for a given provider’s context. While using the checklist, positive responses to the design features indicate user-centricity, while negative responses to the same indicate user-centricity gaps. However, the authors still recommend that evaluation framework be considered as qualitative given that some design features warrant qualitative responses, and that the risk of overlooking the rationale behind some design choices may persist.
The nine principles that constitute the framework for designing user-centric GRMs include accessibility, seamlessness, proactive communication, cost-effectiveness and timeliness, personal data protection, objectivity, independence in the operations of the GRM, accountability of the GRM and capacity building.
The principle of accessibility emphasises the importance of ensuring that users can easily approach the GRM. Select design features that support this principle include raising awareness about the existence of grievance channels, providing comprehensible information about the complaint registration process through multimedia channels, and adapting communication methods to ensure this information reaches the most marginalised users.
The principle of seamlessness focuses on designing a frictionless process for registering complaints. This principle emphasises that the complaint registration be as easy for the user as possible. Therefore, it discourages the user having to expend effort in recognising the party against which complaint needs to be lodged. This can be a complex assessment for the user, given the multi-party nature of digital transactions. One method to operationalise this principle is to create a unified, one-stop front-end for the customer to lodge complaint against any party. The assessment to determine the appropriate counterpart for seeking recourse can be left to technology, instead of the user. Thus, suite of features such as a unified channel for grievance registration complemented by a technology-driven back-end mechanism for routing complaints to relevant entities, automation of processes and complaint escalation can help give effect to this feature.
Proactive communication as a principle emphasises the importance of proactively updating users along their redress journey and providing clarity on the redress process. Design features such as providing immediate acknowledgements with unique reference numbers, informing users of expected processing times and response mediums, and offering ongoing updates on the progress of complaints through users’ preferred channels of communications aid this principle.
The principle of cost-effectiveness and timeliness highlights the importance of designing GRMs that are quick, easily navigable, and efficient, reducing both time and money costs for users seeking redress. Some design features that help realise this objective include making the GRM free to use, not imposing thresholds regarding the amount in dispute, and any limitation period for filing the complaint. It also explores the use of interactive and deeply embedded instant messaging services or social media for filing complaints, particularly for smartphone users. Utilising such services can significantly reduce the time and cost involved in accessing a GRM for the users.
The principle of objectivity highlights the significance of extending similar treatment to similar complaints, consistently over time. It emphasises the importance of establishing and following redress protocols for different complaint categories and preventing bias or inconsistencies in complaint resolution. Clear, consistent, and pre-defied protocols for complaint resolution enhance users’ satisfaction and trust in the complaint redressal process.
The principle of independence in the operation of the GRM advocates for functional independence from other internal departments or external offices of other organisations. It stresses the need to ensure that the GRM remains free from undue pressure or incentives that may compromise its independence or objectivity. Design features such as isolating GRM personnel from conflicting positions within the organisation are recommended to ensure independence.
Accountability as a principle focuses on the GRM making itself answerable for its performance and devising best practices to improve it further. Typically, it involves implementing protocols and collecting metadata on their performance metrics to ensure the GRM’s adherence with established procedures and identifying gaps in the GRM’s functions. It mandates the GRM to furnish reports on its operations to industry bodies or regulatory authorities, and the wider public.
Finally, the principle of capacity building emphasises active feedback collection and its analysis to improve the GRM and the wider ecosystem. Actively seeking feedback from users to appreciate the difficulties they face, users’ suggestions on improving grievance redress processes, and taking targeted actions based on recurring feedback can aid building the capacity of the GRM as well as the wider ecosystem to which it belongs. Further, user surveys, one-on-one conversations with them, are recommended to elicit user feedback which can help improve overall performance of the GRM. A systematic analysis of user-grievances enables the GRM to gain insights about recurring user issues and relay those to the other participants of the industry such as fellow service providers and regulators. Consequently, by actively working on these issues, the industry’s capacity is enhanced.
While these principles and design features may not be exhaustive, they provide a starting point for imagining user-centricity of grievance redress channels for a wide range of providers. This framework must also be treated as material for referencing the different principles of user-centric GRMs. Accordingly, not all design features listed under the abstract principles may apply to each sector or provider. Evaluators may nuance this framework to suit the nature of the GRM being evaluated.
This is not a quantitative framework where numerical values can be assigned against the different questions of the principles, but a qualitative understanding of the GRM’s existing features and gaps where they may be present. Where gaps are identified, this design framework can also be used to provide recommendations to the GRM for their improvement and compliance with best global practices. While this tool is intended to provide an ex-ante framework for designers of GRMs for a given organisation, enclosed is also apost-diagnostic checklist tool for evaluators to assess the performance of pre-existing GRMs.
Read the policy brief here.
Cite this brief:
Singh, A., Chugh, B., & Prasad, S. (2023). Designing a User-centric Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM): A Sector-agnostic Checklist. Retrieved from Dvara Research.
Singh, Anubhutie, Beni Chugh and Srikara Prasad. “Designing a User-centric Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM): A Sector-agnostic Checklist.” 2023. Dvara Research.
Singh, Anubhutie, Beni Chugh, and Srikara Prasad. 2023. “Designing a User-centric Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM): A Sector-agnostic Checklist.” Dvara Research.