Key account management strategy at Tata Motors gets enhanced IT edge

Indian auto major Tata Motors’ key account management strategy relies significantly on IT. We examine its key account management portal project in-depth.

In this week’s executive interview, Jagdish C Belwal, CIO at Tata Motors Limited, along with his colleagues  Vinod Sahay, who heads sales and marketing for Medium & Heavy Trucks, and Anurag Dubey, who heads key accounts management & Prima Truck Range sales, reveal the efforts that went into the auto major’s key account management portal project and resultant benefits.

Can you detail the business objectives that led to the creation of the key account management portal at Tata Motors?

Vinod Sahay: Our commercial vehicles business, especially product lines such as heavy trucks, sells predominantly to major operators. They have large fleet sizes, ranging from 100 to over 2,000 trucks. A single-window interface is critical for dealing with such customers. This is why we introduced the key account management strategy.

While we have dedicated key account managers for each of these clients, fleet owners have operations teams across India. Customers wanted an interface through which the key account manager interacts with their entire operations team, and not just the owner, purchase manager or service head.

Anurag Dubey: We need customer empowerment and top-of-mind recollect, since competition is tough. Tata Motors has to distinguish itself from the competition with value added services, and make the customer’s life easier. Customers should value our offerings while making purchase decisions.

Jagdish C Belwal: Customer loyalty is very important, since the commercial vehicle business is a repeat business. Bigger the fleet owner, greater are his customer advocacy powers. Key customers are also our top 500 customers. Many have large net-savvy teams and their own IT systems. So the idea was to engage them using IT.

How did Tata Motors zero in on the key account management portal as one of the ways to achieve its business objectives?

Belwal: We had certain initiatives to map key accounts and set differentiated processes for these customers. During these, customers raised the possibility of electronically doing business with Tata Motors.

We have a centralized dealer management system using Siebel CRM for our dealers. This system captures all transactions, and takes care of aspects such as sales, service and spares. We first debated whether we should share all the information electronically in a transparent manner. Next was whether the automation of processes at our dealers could be shared with our key accounts. That's when the key account management portal strategy crystallized.

What were the difficulties faced?

Belwal: The biggest challenge is vehicle ownership. A single individual may open five companies under different names. Our key accounts team approached each customer to collect details such as their different companies and vehicles. We set up a back office in our call center, where we collected all the information to set up this portal. At least 20 days are required to set up a key account on the system. It took almost a year for us to collect the information.

Dubey: A major difficulty that we faced was cleansing the data. Many customers had Excel sheets with inaccuracies and missing data.

Can you detail the capabilities of Tata Motors’ key account management system?

Sahay: An operator’s entire fleet is mapped into our key account management portal. We can provide unlimited user names and passwords to key account customers.

As of now, we offer built-in functionality to check aspects such as the fleet’s age; where each truck is maintained; and, details of every job. A customer can perform spare-parts searches to find the nearest Tata spares shop with stocks. He can elevate complaints to us, since the portal has automatic escalation methods. It empowers key account customers to capture and resolve each issue, as well as see issue resolution happening in real time. If an issue goes beyond the operator’s set acceptable limits, it’s automatically flashed as an issue to us.

Belwal: We have extended many capabilities from our CRM. For example, key account customers can see job cards live, access service history, and get analytics on the vehicle.

If there's a vehicle failure, the portal has a GIS-based dealer locator to help operations personnel. Many fleet operators also have captive workshops, which search the portal for urgent part requirements.

Can you tell us more about the technical architecture of the key account management portal?

Belwal: Siebel CRM is the underlying platform that powers our key account management portal. Over a year back, we rolled out the portal on Siebel. Although it did the job, it was too functional, and not very appealing.

We relaunched the key account management portal in September 2011. It’s now Web 2.0-based and visually appealing. Since the portal now runs on top of our Cordys-based SOA layer, it de-risks our transaction system. Tata Technologies was our implementation partner.

How many key accounts are part of the portal now?

Sahay: We have close to 660 key accounts. The key account management portal is now fully deployed in 90% of the cases, so we have over 600 key account customers fully on the portal. Every month we add more key accounts.

What tangible and intangible benefits has your key account management portal brought in?

Dubey: We have two main targets. First is to increase Tata Motors’ share of business in each customer’s fleet. Second is the customer engagement index (CEI).

Customer satisfaction is a part of customer engagement. If the customer is not completely in sync with our policy or Tata Motors offerings, he will be difficult to retain. That’s where CEI comes in — it was 69% last year, 68% the year before. Our target is to improve the figures this year. We have come closer to the customer with this key account management portal.

Sahay: Earlier, escalated issues used to reach Tata Motors after ten days. Now customers can raise the issue to reach us within half an hour. Our target is that all issues be resolved in 48 hours. When we started, we were close to 100 hours. Now we have reached a level at which we witness resolution in 53 to 54 hours.

What is the future roadmap for your key account management strategy?

Belwal: The latest deployment is e-payment. This is a little complex, since Tata Motors does not deal directly with customers. For example, if there's a spares or service transaction, it’s between a dealer and Tata Motors. So dealers’ acceptance and involvement is critical.

We are now getting dealers to sign up for electronic payments with our key account customers. When work is complete, customers can see invoices and make electronic payments through the key account management portal.

Dubey: We have worked on a fleet management system with our CRM team. This will make the key account management portal a completely customer-oriented program.

Sahay: We are getting into telematics, using GPS to provide visibility of a key account customer’s vehicles through the same portal. Pilots have already started in this direction. In the future, it will not be limited to just vehicle tracking. With telematics, we can provide advanced features such as engine management information to operations teams for proactive maintenance.

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