Customer relationship management (CRM) is implemented by organisations using a software solution. All customer-related departments such as sales, marketing and customer services can deploy CRM. Oil and gas companies are deploying CRM in order to gather useful feedback from their customers. This feedback can be used to improve and enhance their service deliverables. Earlier, the success rate of CRM was not encouraging because 50-70 per cent of CRM implementation failed. Today, the scenario has changed as three out of four companies are now using, implementing or planning to adopt a CRM solution.
Relevance of CRM in the oil and gas industry
A well-integrated CRM software can make detailed notes, document attachments, manage customer account activity (including communications, open quotes, pending orders and production volumes), create and maintain service contracts, and resolve service issues.
This makes the sales and marketing process more efficient. It also makes it easier for business intelligence experts and other analysts to get an insight into customer behaviour, which can be extremely helpful in the relatively volatile and fluctuating world of the oil and gas industry.
Key use cases of CRM systems
While some companies have already put their CRM framework in place, others have yet to deploy it. In December 2018, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas launched several digital customer initiatives for Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL), including a social CRM initiative. The technology platform, Social CRM, is aimed at addressing customer queries, complaints, service requests and grievances on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Social CRM initiative is 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. During the past 15-18 months, IGL has upgraded its customer app, IGL Connect, by adding new features and further strengthening its CRM module in SAP. It is promoting digital payments by providing various options to its customers. The company has been providing facilities such as self-billing, spot billing, prepaid cards, automatic meter reading and other incentive schemes for acquiring new piped natural gas (PNG) customers.
IGL is on an ambitious network expansion drive, transitioning from manual postpaid metering solutions to an internet of things (IoT)-based smart gas metering system to improve efficiencies and enhance the customer experience. The company has been a pioneer in using IoT technology for managing infrastructure, and frequent bidirectional communication with meters for billing, payment collection, gas reconciliation, etc. Meanwhile, Mahanagar Gas Limited’s (MGL) CRM department has implemented a cloud-based email platform that sends out an automatically generated acknowledgement to its customers informing them that their email has been received. The back-office activities of the CRM department have been outsourced to a vendor. For monitoring purposes, a real-time dashboard of email traffic has been made available to the CRM department officers. MGL’s CRM department is also planning to roll out a redressal on wheels platform to receive and address customer concerns.
Green Gas Limited (GGL) has put in place a toll-free number with an interactive voice response and a website facility for online registration, complaints and payment, SMS and email notifications, and electronic and spot billing. Another three initiatives are under consideration and are likely to be implemented soon. These are CRM modules, a mobile application and smart metering. GGL has already received approval for the procurement of smart meters.
Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) has launched a project for implementing a dealer management and CRM system to build customer loyalty and drive customer satisfaction. This CRM 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 a fast response to customer service requests and grievances, and providing 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. In addition, IOCL has recently launched the Indian Oil One mobile application.
Adani Gas has adopted a robust CRM strategy to develop, maintain and improve its customer interface. This includes deployment of technologies for organising, automating and synchronising sales, marketing, customer service and technical support. CRM relies heavily on a system that collects and manages customer information and links it with the company’s database. It has three technology components – the CRM engine, front-office solutions and enterprise application integration.
Sabarmati Gas Limited (SGL) is being promoted by the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited for developing city gas distribution networks in three districts – Gandhinagar, Mehsana and Sabarkantha. SGL provides an online bill payment platform for its customers. It 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 within a 30 km radius of the network areas in the major towns covered by SGL. Further, the company’s website helps locate SGL’s PNG and compressed natural gas stations.
Challenges on the way
Two central issues in CRM implementation pertain to technology and cost. Since CRM is a software, technology-related issues are likely to emerge from time to time. Key among these is cybersecurity. Therefore, the security and confidentiality of customer data needs to be accorded priority.
The cost of a CRM solution is an important variable that will need to be factored in. It is a very costly system, and budgetary allocations will need to be made for the system in government-run enterprises. Further, for the implementation of this system, proper training will need to be given to the existing manpower besides sourcing additional manpower. All these come at a big cost. The cost of module upgradation will also be incurred as technology changes at lightning speed. The software will require maintenance, which also has a cost of its own.
Apart from these two broad issues, there are some other obstacles in the way of CRM implementation. These include lack of clarity on the objectives of CRM. Apart from this, selecting the right agency for handling CRM functions is critical. Agencies with successful experience of implementing CRM should be employed. Even after a suitable vendor has been identified, implementation can be a problem. Another problem area is the verification of customer complaints. The company should also ensure that timely updates are provided by the concerned departments. It is crucial to ensure the presence of customer care centres near customers who are not willing to visit faraway centres. User adaptability is also a challenge given the general tendency of resisting change. It is difficult to undertake CRM due to the involvement of multiple departments, especially since its successful implementation requires concerted efforts of all departments and personnel involved.
Hence, a well-planned strategy is needed for the implementation of a CRM system. Requisite arrangements should be made for the daily review and monitoring of the system. The feedback needs to be analysed and corrective measures taken based on the findings of the analysis.
As the CRM software gets more sophisticated, it can provide firms with real-time data integration given the fast moving nature of the energy market. CRM allows a company to improve its service delivery and maintain a healthy relationship with its customers. In view of the growing competition, meeting consumer expectations is not only important, but also fundamental to the success of any industry. Customer retention, better relations with customers and a larger customer base are all positive outcomes of CRM. It can also help increase sales and thereby boost revenues.