Turning Customers Complaints into Compliments: A Case Study of Indian Railways

The latest abstract accepted for my collection of case studies is:

Turning Customers Complaints into Compliments: A Case Study of Indian Railways

by Dr. Harjit Singh (Faculty Member, School of Business, Galgotias University, Greater Noida, India) and Manoj Kumar Pachariya (Faculty, School of Computer & Information Sciences, Galgotias University, Greater Noida, India).


An organization may have hundreds of branches, thousands of employees and millions of customers but from a customer’s point of view, you are just one organizaton. They perceive your organization as a complete network, funnelled directly through you, dedicated to meeting their requirements, listening to them and not as competing sections preoccupied with their own personal issues, rules and politics. In short, in the business world, it is expected that if you are in competition, you cannot say ‘No’ or ‘sorry it’s not my fault’, or “I’m helpless, I’m not getting support from my colleagues” or ‘Sorry, today our network is not working’ to your customers. The customer is little bothered about what is happening in the organisation and wants the service which is being paid for. In other words, you cannot assign blame to another employee or department. This case study is about Indian Railways (IR) which, before going online, used to have same reaction. The system was overwhelmed with manpower and human resource development had not kept pace with the latest technological inventions.

Consequently, IR found itself in a critical situation. There was a lack of modern management as Indian railway failed to attract high quality human resources and to provide appropriate incentives. This made railways incompetent when coping with increasing number of passengers and reservations. Consumer complaints were on the rise. The number of complaints/cases for refund of tariffs and loss for ‘delay’ were increasing at unprecedented rates. The railway booking system was totally in the hands of private agents. Further, railway employees’ negative attitudes, the sheer volume of passengers and the accompanying chaos at the booking centres made the prospect of booking railway tickets an unlikeable thought. The position became more worsened with the entry of low cost airlines which were offering slightly higher or even the same fares than railways for most commercial destinations. Consequently, IR was not only confronted on the passenger front but also saw a steep downfall in the transport sector too. The case begins with the growth of IR and studies the operations of a large Indian organisation that played a vital role in the social, political and economic development of the country. The case highlights the disparity between the organization’s social and economic objectives and the strategies adopted to attain them. What circumstances forced Indian railways to introduce ‘Online Passenger Reservation System’ and its progress in recent years to become one of the most passenger-friendly railway systems in the world. The case emphasizes IR’s efforts to develop consumer perception as the most reliable travel system.

Key Words: Indian Railways, Consumer Complaints, Online reservation.