Almost a decade ago, back in the year 2002, auto industry major Tata Motors launched a major CRM initiative with the objective of building a more direct and engaging relationship with its customers. From a base implementation of a dealer management system (DMS), the initiative went on to utilize service-oriented architecture (SOA) in the form of a SOA middleware platform for the required portals, and has the ultimate goal of linking everything to a business intelligence platform for analytics and beyond.
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The first step was to take into consideration the nature of business dealings in the automotive sector in India, wherein dealers play a major role and directly interface with customers from the time of enquiry and purchase of a vehicle, through to delivery and future servicing of that vehicle. The dealers are thus indispensable in the whole process, but nevertheless operate as independent business entities in their own right, each with different systems, procedures and service levels.
Tata Motors was keen to ensure that its customers experienced uniform levels of service regardless of the dealer involved. After experimenting with dealer training, workshops, seminars and such like, Tata Motors decided that only an overriding system of controls and procedures would help it achieve its goal and as a result implemented a comprehensive DMS. This was the starting point on the journey to automate and streamline all sales and maintenance processes. The dealer management system at Tata Motors, hosted on the Siebel DMS platform, enables uniform processes across the dealer chain.
The Web portal
After its launch in 2003, the DMS project was rolled out dealer by dealer, and completed in 2008. Once engrained, the next objective was to engage with the customers directly. For this, Tata Motors started collating customer information through the Siebel DMS. Direct engagement with customers was managed through a Web portal, giving customers an experience not unlike that of online banking. Gradually dealers began requesting inputs from Tata Motors’ SAP ERP to keep track of stock and spare parts. Meanwhile, the business raised a request for a key accounts portal.
The functionality provided by the Siebel DMS needed to be transferred to the portal. This is where the SOA middleware platform came into the picture, converting the functionality in question into Web services. The vendor chosen for this SOA middleware platform was Cordys, and the deployment was done in 2008.
The SOA middleware platform manages the key accounts portal and provides customers with two options: contacting a dealer or dealing directly with Tata Motors. A customer can also express an interest in a vehicle, pay the booking amount online, and pay the full vehicle value to the dealer. Dealers can be approached for services, and key customers can participate in loyalty programs and other promotions.
Cordys was chosen as the SOA middleware platform, to work as an interface between the Web portal, Siebel DMS, SAP ERP, and other homegrown applications.
The Cordys SOA middleware platform was chosen because of its ease of use and deployment. Cordys also satisfied a detailed proof of concept (POC) for SOA middleware. The POC included working with data from the three different systems and passing thisdata into the SOA middleware platform to enable the Web services.
Cordys SOA middleware is installed on the Tata Motors servers and managed by the company’s internal team. The vendor is called upon occasionally for health checks and random audits.
During the initial phase, the main challenge was creating an equivalent of the Web services in the Siebel system, and it took almost three months to configure the Siebel DMS to work with the SOA platform.
The Web services portal running on the SOA middleware platform has helped Tata Motors in lead generation as well as customer retention. For example, details of prospective customers who undertook test drives are captured and later followed up on for conversion. Prospects and customers enter specified details on a webpage of the Cordys SOA middleware platform. These details then get transferred to the Siebel DMS, which allocates customers to appropriate teams based on location. Leads are followed up in a structured manner, while the sales team can also call on customers for service reminders and other sales and support matters.
The key accounts portal facilitates special attention to customers. SOA middleware enables the Web services portal, via which additional information is shared with the key accounts portal, thus allowing for better management of customer engagement. Customers can view their vehicle details, check maintenance history and keep track of service requests or complaint escalation. The portal also helps customers calculate ROI on their spending.
Tata Motors plans to leverage the SOA middleware platform for analytics in the near future. The SOA middleware platform is integrated with the Oracle Business Intelligence (OBI) platform to provide dashboards and analytical reports. Currently, with the SOA middleware firmly in place, Tata Motors is focusing on further improvement of the Web services portal in order to provide customers with the best possible engagement experience.
This information was gathered in an interview with Prosenjit Sengupta from Tata Motors.