Customer relationship management (CRM) is a combination of practices, strategies and technologies that companies use for managing and analysing customer interactions and data as well as for retaining customers to drive growth. These CRM systems compile customer data across different channels, or points of contact, such as the company website telephone, live chat, direct mail, marketing material and social networks, and can also give detailed access to customers’ personal information, purchase history, and buying preferences and concerns. Access to such customer data helps businesses identify trends and gain insights into buying preferences.
Over time, many functions have been added to CRM systems to make them more useful. These include tools with marketing automation sales force automation and contact centre automation capabilities. While marketing automation capabilities mechanise repetitive tasks to enhance marketing efforts for lead generation, sales force automation tools track customer interactions and automate business functions of the sales cycle. Meanwhile, contact centre automation is designed to reduce tedious aspects of a contact centre agent’s job and might include prerecorded audios that assist in customer problem-solving and information dissemination. Some CRM systems include technology that can create geographic marketing campaigns based on customers’ physical locations, sometimes integrating with popular location-based global positioning system (GPS) apps. Analytics in CRM systems help in improving customer satisfaction rates by analysing user data and creating targeted marketing campaigns. Also, many CRM systems nowadays can integrate with the software used in call centres and for enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
Recent CRM initiatives in the oil and gas industry
In 2019, Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) launched Project “ePIC” (electronic platforms), one of the notable digital initiatives of the year. Equipped with CRM and the secondary dealer management system, the ePIC initiative has been rolled out among over 10,800 LPG distributors with new channels of refill bookings through WhatsApp and digital payment means such as PayTM, credit/debit cards, e-wallets and QuickPay links. IOCL is the first corporate in India to integrate its SAP ERP system with TReDS, an e-discounting platform to support MSMEs.
Adani Gas has adopted several CRM strategies to improve its customer interface. The group has launched a mobile application named “My Adani Gas”. It is a digital platform that helps in collaborating with partners and stakeholders such as customers, vendors, contractors and employees. My Adani Gas enables piped natural gas (PNG) domestic customers to upload gas meter readings, identify meter readers, and download forms for registration and name change. It helps compressed natural gas (CNG) customers to locate nearby CNG filling stations. Further, it enables field sales officers and third-party inspectors to complete customer onboarding digitally. It provides the full digital self-service suite of interaction for customers, from service requests to account statements, and helps them collaborate with or hire new vendors. Meanwhile, it enables vendors/contractors to track progress of service orders and manage service performance. Also, a new feature called “bill” will be added on WhatsApp to support Adani Gas’s “go green” initiative. It will enable customers to generate their own bills by submitting a photo of their meter reading, with the actual bill being sent on WhatsApp.
Mahanagar Gas Limited (MGL) has rolled out several new CRM initiatives. In order to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of domestic meter reading, improvements are being made using android software to help meter readers capture details with greater ease and accuracy while providing value-added inputs to customers. The software is upgraded at regular intervals to provide customers access to information on meter reading through SMS. Going forward, the company plans to implement a prepaid metering system for domestic customers. These initiatives shall facilitate remote acquisition of meter reading, detect instances of meter malfunctioning and tampering, and enhance user experience, in turn ensuring accurate revenue realisation for the company. MGL has taken its first step in machine learning by integrating a chatbot with its corporate website and starting an online name transfer facility for customers. The company is investing in the latest technology to match up to a rapidly changing business environment.
Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) has leveraged information technology to upgrade its customer app by adding new features, and also to strengthen its CRM module in SAP. Recently, it launched digital payment initiatives at CNG stations for the benefit of customers. The move saw IGL tying up with BHIM UPI to enable UPI payment collection through all modes of payment. In order to expand the PNG customer base, IGL has introduced digital marketing, launched a 360-degree PNG publicity drive including the launch of a mobile promotional vehicle, and increased customer contact channels through mobile apps and the IGL website. The focus has been on strengthening meter reading, billing and the bill delivery processes. The self-billing option via the IGL CONNECT mobile application has been widely acknowledged amid the pandemic. The company has implemented Cisco Umbrella as the cloud-based domain name system solution, Cisco web content filtering, and the symantec Endpoint Detection and Remediation solution. IGL is continuously striving to improve and provide enhanced services to its customers. It has extended the SAP and CRM functionalities to integrate with third-party prepaid meter vendors for efficient billing of prepaid connections and has leveraged the latest technology to ensure business continuity and offer unhindered customer services in these difficult times. It had rolled out the MS Teams collaboration platform at the time of the lockdown along with various other measures such as contactless interaction through a mobile app, thereby making continuous efforts to improve customer relationship.
Another key CGD player, GAIL (India) Limited offers seamless and transparent pipeline access to its customers, as well as an online portal, which was launched in 2018 for displaying and online booking of pipeline capacity. These services are available 24×7 and can be accessed on the mobile as well. As part of its “digital strategy”, the company has identified digital themes, which focus on various business value drivers such as brand strength, customer satisfaction, health safety and environment, people effectiveness, sourcing effectiveness and trustworthiness. Also, a road map has been chalked out with potential digital initiatives to bridge the gaps between the current state and leading practices/emerging digital trends. Further, the implementation of a number of digital initiatives is in the pipeline.
In sum, CRM ensures best performance and optimal running of applications. This, in turn, helps in extending seamless services to customers, even in crisis situations such as the pandemic. With the help of online CRM services, companies have been able to facilitate uninterrupted gas supply to their customers with all the safety precautions in place.