In order to establish, develop, maintain and optimise a long-term relationship between customers and an organisation, it is essential to deploy customer relationship management (CRM) systems. CRM allows a firm to improve its service delivery and maintain a healthy relationship with its customers.
CRM involves an integrated approach to ensuring customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction has significant implications for the economic performance of a company, since it boosts customer loyalty and reduces the likelihood of defection. It entails all aspects of interaction that a company has with its customers, whether it is sales or service-related.
In a world of growing competition, meeting consumer expectations is not only important, but fundamental to the success of any industry. This is also true for the city gas distribution (CGD) segment, which is a customer-oriented business.
CRM technology infrastructure
CRM involves technology to organise, automate and synchronise sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support. Many aspects of CRM rely heavily on the technology system that collects, manages and links information about customers with the company database.
CRM has three technology components — CRM engine, front office solutions and enterprise application integration (EIA). The CRM engine is the customer data repository or data warehouse where all data related to customers is captured and stored. This includes information such as names, addresses, phone numbers and birth dates. The engine provides a single gathering point for all individual customer information, enabling a unified customer view to be created.
Front office solutions are the applications that run on the collected. They provide employees with information on what to do next with a customer. Once city gas distributors have the customer database, they can offer facilities such as customer support, billing and complaint registration to their customers.
Now CRM is being integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, unlike earlier when they would operate as stand-alone systems with limited data sharing. Integration of the two systems can provide a competitive advantage by enabling the sharing and synchronisation of important information.
Benefits of CRM implementation
CRM helps in profiling prospects, understanding requirements and building relationships with customers by providing them with the most suitable products and enhanced service. It integrates back and front office systems to create a database of customer contacts, purchases and technical support, among other things. This database helps the company improve the quality of customer relationships, while enabling customers to manage some information on their own.
The following are the benefits of CRM, particularly in the CGD segment:
- Gaining customer insights to better understand and serve them.
- Provision of an SMS alert system, through which customers receive messages regarding the monthly bill and the last date for making payments, well in advance.
- Addressing consumer complaints or queries 24×7 through email or a customer care numbers and establishing a faster complaint redressal system, wherein each complaint gets a unique number so that tracking it becomes easy for the customer as well as for the company.
- Customers can pay their bills online from their mobile applications or computers using debit/credit cards or net banking. The online payment facility saves the consumer’s time and effort.
- Easy location of compressed natural gas (CNG)/piped natural gas (PNG) stations in the vicinity.
- CGDs can easily get feedback from customers by sending them forms via email.
- Any emergency, such as a gas leakage or a fire, can be reported immediately.
- CRM reduces marketing/client servicing costs.
CRM implementation by CGD utilities
Adani Gas Limited
Adani Gas Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Limited, has set up CGD networks in Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat, Faridabad in Haryana, and Khurja in Uttar Pradesh. In addition, the contract for the development of the Allahabad and Chandigarh CGD networks has been awarded to a consortium of Adani Gas Limited and Indian Oil Corporation.
Adani Gas has taken various initiatives to improve its customer service delivery. It provides an emergency customer care number on its website, where customers can register their complaints. Customers can also locate nearby PNG and CNG stations in a particular city.
Moreover, Adani Gas provides several payment options to its customers. These include mobile payment through the company’s mobile application, online payments using credit/debit cards or net banking facilities, and through cash collection centres or Suvidhaa outlets, where customers can pay their bills in cash. The outlets are located in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Faridabad. A list of all these branches, along with their addresses, has been provided on Adani Gas’s website. Further, a dropbox facility is available in the three cities. Customers can also ask for cheques to be collected from their residence/location at a charge. Adani Gas has also introduced e-invoice services, which, if opted for by a customer, enables them to get their gas bill through email, thereby saving paper.
Mahanagar Gas Limited
Mahanagar Gas Limited (MGL) was incorporated in 1995 as a joint venture of GAIL (India) Limited, the BG Group and the Maharashtra government.
MGL has a SAP-based customer care system, which is accessible from all its offices in and around Mumbai. The information is available on a real-time basis. For emergencies like a gas leakage or a fire, a 24-hour toll-free number is available. Customers can register their queries or complaints either by phone or through email. They can also visit the centres in Bandra, Kandivli, Mulund and Thane during office hours. Customers can check their bills online and pay them through a dropbox, electronic clearing services (ECS), online payment or through a voluntary deposit scheme, wherein consumers can deposit the amount in advance to meet their future gas dues.
Sabarmati Gas Limited
Sabarmati Gas Limited (SGL) is promoted by Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited for developing CGD networks in the three districts of Gandhinagar, Mehsana and Sabarkantha. SGL provides a platform for customers to pay their bills online. It also has a 24×7 emergency contact number and a customer care helpline, which can be reached during office hours. The company also has a customer care centre for each 30 km radius of the network area (of major towns covered by SGL). The company website also allows customers to locate SGL’s CNG stations in their area.
Indraprastha Gas Limited
Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) was set up in 1998. A year later, it took over the Delhi CGD project from GAIL (India) Limited. The company has a customer portal that uses IBM’s solutions to address consumer needs. It has a fast complaint redressal system, along with a 24×7 customer care facility. Customers can manage their PNG account online and apply for new connections through the web portal. The portal offers services such as online bill payment through credit cards/net banking. Payments can also be made via ECS, under which the customer’s bank account is automatically debited for the PNG consumption bill amount. Cheques or cash for the bill amount can be deposited at IDBI Bank or Kotak Mahindra Bank branches. The IGL website allows customers to view their e-bills by sending an SMS and subscribing to the service. Consumers can post their feedback on the IGL website. Moreover, IGL regularly imparts training to its employees and contract staff at CNG stations. A dedicated group of trainers conduct training programmes and carry out practical demonstrations. The company has also taken initiatives to supervise its CNG stations for disaster recovery. Customers, moreover, have the option of submitting their meter readings online.
GAIL Gas Limited
GAIL Gas Limited was set up on May 27, 2008 as a wholly owned subsidiary of GAIL (India) Limited. SAP was considered the best ERP to meet the company’s requirements. The SAP implementation project was awarded to IBM in 2003. ERP has integrated all the functions of the organisation, including product planning, development, manufacturing processes, human resources, financials, and sales and marketing. GAIL also has a web portal where customers can register their complaints, apply for a new PNG subscription, track their bill and give their feedback. Moreover, the company has a list of PNG and CNG stations on its website along with their addresses.
The need to establish a customer-centric strategy is well-established. In this regard, gas utilities are increasingly adopting CRM systems with the aim of increasing customer satisfaction and reducing the cost of client servicing. As the experience of various CGD utilities highlights, the introduction of schemes such as customer feedback portals, dedicated customer care numbers and online bill viewing and payment can be adopted by gas utilities to enhance long-term consumer relations.