Customer relationship management (CRM) is used to reduce a company’s costs and enhance its profitability by ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction. City gas distribution (CGD) firms in India and across the world are increasingly using CRM technologies to develop and maintain long-term relationships with customers, who are becoming increasingly active rather than passive and thus making a strong case for consumer-centric utilities. These days, consumers seek convenience across all aspects of a utility’s operations.
CRM helps distribution firms exercise more control in their interaction with customers; man-aging their expectations in a better manner and understanding what they really want. Its deployment has become all the more essential to improve the core area of service delivery and maintain a healthy relationship with customers. CRM has the potential to enhance customer loyalty and reduce dissatisfaction.
CGD has become a customer-oriented business, making it imperative for companies in the segment to invest in the latest CRM initiatives as well as technologies.
CRM helps companies understand the needs of customers and build relationships by providing the most suitable customer services. It integrates office systems to create a database of customer contacts, purchases, etc., on the basis of which a firm can improve its relationship with users.
CRM includes all aspects of a firm’s interaction with customers, whether it is related to sales or services. It is used to learn more about customer needs and behaviour to foster a strong relationship with customers. An effective CRM strategy helps firms increase revenues by providing services and products as per customer requirements; allowing them to cross-sell products more effectively to retain existing customers and discover new ones.
A CRM system involves technology for organising, automating and synchronising sales, marketing, customer service and technical support. Its successful implementation is conditional on the technology system that collects, manages and links customer information with the database.
CRM comprises three technology components: the CRM engine, front office solutions and enterprise application integration (EAI).
- CRM engine: This is a customer data repository or data warehouse where the entirety of customer data (such as name, address, birth date and contact number) is captured and stored. It allows for the creation of a unified customer view by being a single gathering point for all customer information.
- Front-office solutions: These are the applications that are run on the collected data. They provide employees with information on how to proceed with a particular customer.
- EAI: This allows two or more enterprises to operate as one. EAI systems are used to integrate incompatible systems (such as older systems that entail huge investments) with newer applications like CRM systems within a single business entity. They are also used to integrate the enterprise systems of various companies to allow electronic business transactions between them.
Use of CRM in Indian gas utilities
An increasing number of CGD utilities in India are opting for CRM strategies to improve response times, minimise complaints, keep minimal downtimes, enhance supply reliability and ensure accuracy in billing and payments.
CRM in Indian gas utilities
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 enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for meeting the company’s demands, and its implementation work 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 complaints, apply online for new piped natural gas (PNG) subscriptions, track bills, and give feedback. The company also has a list of PNG/ compressed natural gas (CNG) stations on its website along with their addresses.
Indraprastha Gas Limited
Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) was set up in 1998. A year later, it took over a 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 also manage their PNG accounts and apply for new connections through the web portal, which also offers the option of online bill payments through credit cards/net banking. Payments can also be made through the electronic clearing service system under which a bank account is automatically debited for the PNG consumption bill amount. In addition, cheques or cash can be deposited at branches of IDBI Bank or Kotak Mahindra Bank. The IGL website allows the viewing of e-bills by sending an SMS and subscribing to the service. Consumers can also post feedback on the website. The company regularly imparts training to employees and contract staff at CNG stations, where a dedicated group of trainers conduct programmes, along with practical demonstrations. The company has also taken initiatives for supervising its CNG stations in disaster recovery situations. Customers even have the option of submitting meter readings online.
Sabarmati Gas Limited
Sabarmati Gas Limited (SGL) is promoted by Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited for developing CGD networks in three districts: Gandhinagar, Mehsana and Sabarkantha. SGL provides a platform where customers can pay bills online. It also has a 24×7 emergency contact number and customer care number that is available during office working hours. There is also a customer care centre for each 30 km radius of its network area (of the major towns covered by SGL). The company’s website allows the locations of SGL and CNG stations to be mapped as well.
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. The development of Allahabad’s and Chandigarh’s CGD network has been awarded to a consortium of Adani Gas and Indian Oil Corporation Limited.
Adani Gas has taken various initiatives to improve its customer service delivery. Its website has an emergency customer care number on which complaints can be registered and nearby PNG and CNG stations in a particular city can be located.
The company also provides several payment options to its customers, which include the mobile application route. Online payments can be made using credit/debit cards or net banking facilities, while money can also be deposited at cash collection centres at Suvidha outlets located in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Faridabad. A list of all these branches and their addresses has been provided on Adani Gas’s website. Drop box facilities are available in the three cities as well. In addition, customers can ask for cheques to be collected from their residence/location on a chargeable basis. Adani Gas has also introduced e-invoice services in which gas bills are sent through email, thereby saving paper.
Gas utilities across the globe are increasingly adopting CRM systems to enhance customer comfort. Consequently, a lot of firms are coming up with customer-centric strategies. CRM allows a company to improve its service delivery and maintain healthy relationships with customers. Given the growing competition, meeting consumer expectations is not only important but also fundamental for the success of any industry. This is true for the customer-oriented CGD segment.