Effectively managing IT resources to focus attention on business growth and customer satisfaction
Efigas is a natural gas distribution company that serves more than 640,000 customers in three jurisdictions in the coffee region of Colombia: Caldas, Quindio, and Risaralda. The company drives the region’s productivity by providing a reliable, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly energy service that, while also improving the community’s quality of life.
Efigas launched their operation with the aim to increase their customer base, offer new lines of business, implement regulatory and strategic changes quickly and effectively, and transform itself into a customer-centric organization with a high level of customer satisfaction. To reach their goals, Efigas needed to unify its business processes, ensure operational efficiency, and operate in an agile manner while focusing its resources on growing its business.
After evaluating several options available in the market, Efigas decided to implement Open Smartflex, under a cloud solution model. Open Smartflex is a modern CIS with a high level of flexibility that allows Efigas to adapt its business processes as its operation continues to evolve. The solution is highly adaptable to the business requirements of any utility.
With the support of Open Smartflex, Efigas was able to unify their commercial and operational management in a single system, obtaining a 360° view of their clients, with online information, and 24/7 availability. The company also incorporated a self-service portal and chatbots to strengthen communication with their customers, successfully handling 33% of service requests through these digital channels. Efigas also achieved a 40% growth in their customer base and incorporated the new Brilla business line, with which they achieved a 17% increase in their sources of income. Today, Efigas is considered one of Colombia’s leading utility companies, with a customer satisfaction rate of over 93%.
Efigas, a natural gas distribution company, was founded in 2009 as a result of the merger between companies which previously served Colombia’s coffee region. They launched their operations serving over 450,000 customers using outdated and rigid software systems that allowed the company to invoice their customers but did not have the flexibility necessary to carry out their business plans.
In 2014, Efigas began their digital transformation process, which involved the implementation of a modern CIS solution, supported by cloud architecture with first-class infrastructure, provided by their new technological ally Open International. Juan Pablo Cardona Naranjo, CTO of Efigas, describes this process as follows: “The transformation process at Efigas involves people, processes and technological enablers. That’s why since 2014 Efigas and its sister gas distribution companies have become pioneers in migrating our platforms to the cloud. We felt confident that this would be the right alternative for deployment of our operations in Colombia and other Latin American countries.” Choosing a cloud model has allowed Efigas to delegate the management of its IT resources to its technological partner. This way, they have focused their attention on the growth of their business and the satisfaction of their customers.
Considering that their operation resulted from the merger of other companies, Efigas unified 100% of their commercial processes and carried out their growth strategy with the support of Open Smartflex. They achieved a 40% increase in their customer base by expanding their services to remote populations. Currently, the company provides gas services to 640,000 residential and industrial customers in their area.
Moreover, with the implementation of Open Smartflex, Efigas acquired the necessary flexibility to develop new lines of business beyond traditional gas services. Hence, in 2014, the company launched Brilla, a non-bank financing program through which users can access credit to finance products or services offered by Efigas’ commercial partners. This line of business has transformed the lives of many customers and their families. In fact, 95% of the people who use Brilla belong to lower socioeconomic classes and use these funds to finance gas appliances, household items, construction materials, health plans, and even education services, which they can now pay for monthly through their gas bills. “The program stands out for its low overdue portfolio index, which ratifies their customers’ responsibility and loyalty to the company’s vote of confidence”, comments Carlos Mazeneth, Efigas’ General Manager. The Brilla program also improved Efigas’ innovation capabilities and increased their revenues. Today, Brilla represents between 15% and 17% of the company’s revenue sources, which has led to a 54% increase in Efigas’ EBITDA.
Another challenge that Efigas faced took place in 2020, when the company found itself in the middle of a volatile regulatory environment, aggravated by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this regard, Eduardo Alzate, CFO of Efigas, states, “Efigas has been quickly meeting regulatory changes thanks to Open Smartflex’s workflows. Before the pandemic we had increased our compliance with the required service levels. However, with the onset of the pandemic, we were faced with regulatory changes every two days, which led us to adjust our architecture to comply with more than 150 regulations related to government billing benefits for our users which required immediate attention and implementation”.
During the pandemic, Efigas also had to manage the natural increase of customer complaints, claims and requests generated by the new situation. Before Covid 19, Efigas received an average of 845 requests and complaints per month; this number rose to 1616 during the pandemic, an increase of 91%. “There was a sense of uncertainty on behalf of our customers, who now consumed more gas than usual resulting in a much higher bill than they were used to. In addition, users also wanted access to financing plans and government benefits,” explains Alzate.
Faced with this complex scenario, Efigas relied on Open Smartflex to manage its business processes and create new customer engagement tools during the pandemic. “Digital channels were vital to ensure customer service during the lockdown, so we added a self-service portal and digital chatbots to offer a truly multichannel user experience. In the end, service requests made through digital channels surpassed those received through call centers and face-to-face channels in a matter of days. Currently, 33% of the requests we receive are handled digitally,” says Alzate.
Thanks to Open Smartflex’s omnichannel capabilities, Efigas has a 360º customer view, regardless of the channel used for customer service, which guarantees a high level of security, reliability, and operational continuity of its services. This combination of technologies and outstanding service has had a positive impact on the company’s customer satisfaction, which today reaches a rating of 93% on average, being one of the best-rated utilities in Colombia. “This rating generates an even higher commitment to efficiency, transparency and timeliness of the service we provide to transform the lives of natural gas users,” claims Carlos Mazeneth.
In their upcoming plans, Efigas will begin to work in a synchronized manner to address climate change and mitigate environmental impacts through renewable energy projects. Mazeneth concludes, “A great transformation is undoubtedly coming for the industry; we hope to continue growing and finding innovative solutions with the support of Open International, who has been a strategic ally that has impacted our business evolution goals”.
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