With the booming Indian digital space and a whole host of service providers shifting online for their businesses, the call for definitive service standards across sectors like education, healthcare and tourism has only grown louder. With no direct standards governing services till date, consumers who have paid for services in India know that acquiring requisite services depend on how deep their pockets are and how far they can browbeat the service providers.
The existing information gap between consumers and service providers often leaves the former being able to gauge the quality of service provided only on consumption. Specific service standards can offer a way out of this dilemma. Last month, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), a Government of India agency, mandated the formulation of uniform standards of quality for broad categories of manufactured and agricultural goods. The entity is looking to re-establish service standards in these sectors.
Last month, the BIS teamed up with LocalCircles, a leading Indian community social media platform, to launch an online platform for both consumers and industry members where they can offer their suggestions to the government for new service standards across:
Hospital Services, Education Services, Construction Services, Smart Cities Standards Consultation with Experts, Consumer Feedback on Hallmark Jewellery, Consumer Feedback on ISI Mark and Feedback on BIS licensing and certification procedures.
You, the consumer, can share your experiences of various products and services and offer suggestions for their development and enhancement. Similarly, it will also enable the business community to participate in standards consultation and enhancement processes. After months of discussion, these standards set by the BIS are expected to be rolled out toward of the end of this year. So, have your say!
Why is the process important?
There is a crying need for the standardisation of services offered on a mass scale by different businesses which will go some way towards protecting consumers from unsavoury practices.
“While policy, law and regulations on standards for goods have been evolving, they have remained dormant for services—though standards in services are probably more important than in goods, given services are invisible and non-storable in nature,” claims Rajeev Kher, an expert on information systems, and Pralok Gupta, a senior professor for Trade Studies at IIFT, in a column for Mint.
“Both the development and adoption of service standards in India have been driven by foreign buyers. There has been little conscious effort on the part of public and private institutions to provide a sound ecosystem for service standards in general and for domestic consumers specifically. Wherever there is an external connection of a service sector, adoption of standards becomes an imperative for market development. The domestic consumer, however, is left to the vagaries of the service provider’s skills and behaviour,” they add.
Besides the tie up with LocalCircles, the BIS has already set up numerous committees which will also come up with their recommendations to govern key service sector businesses.
“Because developing standards for such a vast number of service sectors is a drawn-out process, we are going to first prioritize the 12 champion sectors recognised by the Ministry of Commerce”, said Surina Rajan, Director General at BIS, in a conversation with NDTV.
These sectors include IT and its enabled services, financial services and education services, among others. Besides ensuring the protection of consumers, the objective of establishing certain basic consumer-centric standards will serve three other key interests—growth expansion, greater employment generation and facilitating the growth in exports.
This is particularly a concern with online services, which often come out with websites that are available one day and missing the next. We need to find ways to authenticate these service providers and set standards for the services they provide.
After feedback from consumers and industry, the government must establish a firm legal framework to ensure service providers are held liable for sub-standard service. This will require the Parliament to pass laws on the same. Beyond setting a robust legal framework, our respective governments must establish institutional mechanisms to ensure service providers are conforming to these standards and consumers are well-informed through concerted awareness drives.
With the new standards in place, none of this works unless the service industry installs systems to ensure those who are delivering their services to the consumer possess the requisite skill and know-how.
So, what are you waiting for? Click here to participate and have your say.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)