Consumer First: CRM solutions key to better relationship management

CRM solutions key to better relationship management

Aimed at improving service delivery to consumers, customer relationship management (CRM) tools are increasingly finding adoption among gas utilities in India. Apart from improving the relationship with new and existing consumers, the solutions help pare costs and improve profit margins. They also provide ease and convenience to consumers. This has become a major distinguishing feature for companies, providing them with a competitive edge. With city gas distribution (CGD) being a customer-oriented business, CRM technologies are being widely adopted in the segment.

Need for CRM

In India, a number of CGD entities are deploying CRM solutions to reduce response time and downtime, address complaints, enhance supply reliability, and ensure accuracy in billing and payment procedures.

CRM aids CGD companies to better understand the needs of customers and build relationships by providing the most suitable services. It integrates office systems to create a database of customer contacts, purchases, etc., based on which the company gets a fair amount of visibility with regard to the trend in consumption patterns. With these essential data points, the company is also better placed to chalk out its future business strategies.

Until a few years back, the success rate for CRM was only 50-70 per cent. The scenario has changed for the better as three out of four companies are now using, implementing, or planning to adopt a CRM solution.

Government initiatives

Over the past three to four years, the government-to-citizen communication has undergone a massive technology makeover. Social media has become a very important tool to communicate with people. Mega programmes launched by the government such as Digital India envision greater technology adoption for carrying out authentic and effective communication, and enhancing overall service delivery.

On December 21, 2018, Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) launched various digital initiatives including the CNG Queue Management System and Social CRM. The latter is aimed at addressing customer queries, complaints, service requests and grievances on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The technology platform can be used to effectively view and monitor the grievance redressal process by making use of sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis software helps companies gauge the opinion and satisfaction of customers by assessing the comments, blogs and reviews that they post online.

Mahanagar Gas Limited’s (MGL) CRM department has implemented a cloud-based email platform that sends out an automatically generated acknowledgement to customers, informing them that their email has been received. The back-office activities of the CRM department have been outsourced to a vendor. For the purpose of monitoring, a real-time dashboard of email traffic has been made available to the CRM department officers. MGL’s CRM department is planning to roll out a system of Redressal on Wheels to receive and address customer concerns.

In Green Gas Limited (GGL), the following systems are in place – a toll-free number with interactive voice response (IVR), a website facility for registration of complaints and online payments, SMS and email notifications, electronic bill (e-bill), and spot billing. Three more initiatives are under consideration and are likely to be rolled out soon. These are the CRM Module, a mobile application, and smart metering. GGL has already received approval for the procurement of smart meters.

Sabarmati Gas Limited (SGL) is being promoted by the 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 a customer care number that is available during office hours. There is also a customer care centre in 30 km radius of the network areas in the major towns covered by SGL. The company’s website also helps locate SGL’s pipelined natural gas and compressed natural gas stations.

Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) has recently launched a project for implementing a dealer management CRM system to build customer loyalty and drive customer satisfaction. The project, called e-PIC (an e-platform for customers), is being implemented across all business units of the company. It is designed to perform CRM functions such as integrating and customising marketing efforts across product lines, ensuring swifter response to customer service requests, including grievances, and presenting a unified customer experience across various access devices such as mobile phones, tablets and desktops.

The CRM system has a 360-degree grievance redressal system with proper social media integration. The customer today demands more than an IVR facility and hence social media has become an essential part of the entire value chain. In addition, IOCL has recently launched the Indian Oil One mobile application.

In sum

Globally, gas companies are increasingly adopting CRM systems to enhance their customer experience. Many firms are coming up with innovative customer-centric strategies. CRM improves a company’s service delivery and helps 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, including the CGD segment.