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Issue of November 2005 

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Energy and Utilities

Keeping the customer happy

NDPL has deployed a CRM that has helped it manage customer complaints through a single window. The application has also helped increase revenues, and sped up the process of sanctioning utility connections. Kusum Makhija reports

Akhil Pandey

New Delhi Power Limited (NDPL), like most public service organisations, was reeling under a deluge of customer complaints. The company was formed in July 2002 with a clear mandate to reduce aggregate technical and commercial losses in its area of operations, and provide consumers with reliable and quality power backed by excellent services.

In November 2004, the NDPL IT team developed a CRM application called Sampark to address customer grievances and improve satisfaction levels. The Sampark CRM is a client-server application developed on the .NET platform using Visual Basic .NET and Oracle 9i as database. Further, it used ADO.NET-based Data Access Layer.

Prior to implementing Sampark, there was no workflow to handle connection, billing and metering-related issues or requests. There was no pre-defined system for assigning tasks to a group or a person and no list of tasks required to be carried out for closing a request. Data was scattered across many databases and no single interface provided a omprehensive and complete picture of the consumer.

“Over the last three years NDPL has invested over Rs 650 crore to overhaul and strengthen its distribution network and improve consumer services; considerable emphasis was laid on providing a robust IT system and infrastructure,” says Akhil Pandey, HoD, IT, NDPL.

Project Details

Project: A home-grown project for Consumer Relationship Management, Sampark is developed by NDPL in-house.

Date started: October 2004

Date completed: November 2004

Project objective: The project facilitates the logging and tracking of consumer requests and grievances related to electricity connections, billing and metering in line.

Project Innovation: The unique feature of this application is that it offers a snapshot of consumer requests with a complete picture of various stages. The consumer care executive is able to view the details of the request flow while responding to the consumer for a registered complaint.
There are 400 touch points at which a consumer can register his request and query the status as well.

A Hundred Offices

The application Sampark runs in over 100 offices of NDPL spread over 512 square kilometres of North and North-West Delhi. An initiative has been taken to leverage the benefits of legacy technology as the database, servers and links (leased line and ISDN) were inherited from the old system as a baseline infrastructure. A broadband VPN set-up has been established at all locations with the leased lines as a fallback. The old data storage mechanism—Direct Access Storage or DAS—has been replaced with a Fibre Channel SAN (Storage Area Network) including the implementation of an ISA firewall for data security. The technologies and infrastructure used in building and successfully implementing the application are SAN-data storage, broadband VPN and fibre optic connectivity atop which runs the Microsoft .NET application.

“We are also using component-based technology which helps in reducing development time and standardising the application,” says Pandey.

It can be made available on every computer in the organisation, making it possible for any employee to log-in, check the status of a particular consumer complaint and even register one, if required. Thus, effectively, the number of customer touch points has increased manifold; any employee can service any consumer. Consumers need not approach only consumer care centres for any request or issue; they can be served at any NDPL office.

The Sampark CRM system provides a simple and user-friendly interface with an integrated notepad, which helps NDPL officials to add their comments on the progress of consumer requests. This mechanism is also helpful in analysing the consumer’s behaviour pattern over time. Sampark, in a single window, provides key customer details such as the entire consumer history including billing, consumption pattern, payments, meter reading, enforcement details, and past complaints, if any. It generates a brief summary at the click of a mouse. The application also has an online search facility based on consumer number, request number, name and so on. Additionally, a detailed MIS report facility is also available to the employee for mapping the overall performance of the application. “Sampark converges with the NDPL Web site, therefore the consumer can view the status of a request or complaint online,” explains Pandey.

Easy Tracking Of Customer Grievances

Sampark facilitates the logging and tracking of consumer requests or grievances related to connections, billing and metering in line with the strategic objective of keeping the consumer satisfied. Once a request is logged in Sampark from any NDPL help-line desk, consumer care centre or zonal office, it is then automatically forwarded to the concerned department and official for action. If there is a default then it is automatically escalated to the next level. The consumer can learn the status of his complaint at all stages from customer care executives.

What’s Unique

The unique feature of the application is that it provides a snapshot of consumer requests with a complete picture of various stages of the process. A consumer care executive is able to view the details of the request flow while responding to the consumer for a registered complaint. The progress of movement of a request across various process owners can be tracked at any point of time. The bottlenecks in progress can be identified, resulting in fine-tuning of the resolution process. The software is configured to store the days-to-resolution, and escalation to the next authority is triggered automatically once the resolution time elapses.

The Other Nominee
  • BPCL was the other nominee in the infrastructure category.

“Prior to this implementation, consumer contact points were limited to consumer care centres at district offices. Those were not very efficient in retrieving information and handling workflow management,” explains Pandey. Now there are more than 400 touch points through which a consumer can register requests and query status. Another unique thing about this project is the integration and easy availability of various data. This provides an exhaustive picture of consumer information related to connection management, billing and metering management. It helps the customer care executive to respond immediately to the consumer query and interact efficiently.

Faster Response Time

Earlier, the turnaround time for processing a new connection request from the day it was received to actual connection took up to a month. After implementing Sampark, this has been cut down to just seven days. In addition, the average customer redressal duration fell from 38 to 12 days.

Victory Talk

Says Akhil Pandey, HoD, IT, NDPL: "It feels great to win an award especially with all the challenges that we faced in a city like Delhi. Our efforts to keep our customers happy have been recognised by the industry as well."

The system provides integrated information about the consumer by fetching data from various sources. For customer care executives, there is a single centralised view of consumer information. NDPL is the first power distribution utility company which has implemented an internally-developed consumer relations management application.

Increased Revenue Generation

NDPL saw a six percent increase in their overall revenues, which translates into Rs 19.10 crore. Around 400 employees and 9.1 lakh customers have benefited from the application.

Currently, Sampark is accessible only to customer care executives, call centre executives and senior officers in the organisation. The major obstacle to making it available to all employees is network connectivity. NDPL is laying fibre optic cable as a backbone network.

The challenge is to avoid human intervention and develop intelligent systems. “We wanted to build a secure system with controls to arrest accidental or intentional errors with traceability. It was important to have the inbuilt flexibility to facilitate changes made by an authorised user,” says Pandey.

Up next: customers can log their requests online

The future scope of this application is to provide an interface to consumers to log their requests on the Internet. The system can send an acknowledgement and details about the request status. The scope of Sampark can be increased by integrating it with Sarthi, which is presently used as an employee help-line or single window customer redressal desk for handling all establishment-related (personal) issues or grievances and enquiries. Sampark can respond within the stipulated period through e-mail, SMS or phone after action is taken by the concerned department personnel.

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