Remote Monitoring of Competition between Government Service Providers

Researchers: Karthik Muralidharan (UC San Diego), Paul Niehaus (UC San Diego)
Location: India

Project Description

Remote Monitoring of Competition between Government Service Providers

A call center is used to enhance the ability to measure the impacts of a large-scale randomized controlled trial on cash transfers and food security in Bihar, India. The Bihar Cash Transfer project (implemented through the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab) is currently implementing and testing the impact of replacing in-kind food transfers via the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) with cash transfers in Bihar. The call center provides a mechanism to capture in real time the impacts of competition between the status quo benefit-delivery mechanism and the cash alternative, to communicate key program information to beneficiaries (food-stamp prices, date of account opening, biometrics and account card distribution), and to coach thousands of beneficiaries through the process of opening bank accounts, which for most is their first formal accounts.

Progress has been made on building the software for the call center. We have selected, customized and tested our cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) interface and service provider. We have also hired and trained one call center executive, who is responding to and recording queries. Using the call center to place outgoing calls to program beneficiaries has allowed us to easily and rapidly communicate program updates and request additional account information when necessary.

In order to ensure beneficiaries utilize the call center, we are incorporating demonstrations of the call center in our upcoming video-based beneficiary communications drive. We believe the combination of videos and the call center will be a much more effective way to share information about the program features.

Within the CRM, we have created five broad categories of beneficiary grievances based on common issues. The call center executive logs these grievances as they come in, allowing us to build a dataset of grievances over time, and track and resolve more serious problems. We have stored responses to commonly asked questions within the CRM so our executives can quickly access them. Our cloud-based service provider logs all incoming and outgoing calls, and will provide another useful source of information as call volume increases.