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Indane agency launches refill booking on SMS

By N. Ravi Kumar


CHENNAI, MARCH 4. Want to book a cooking gas refill? Send an SMS on your mobile phone.

Short Messaging Service (SMS) is the latest initiative of a gas agency at Teynampet to simplify the booking process.

Sree Navaneethalakshmi Agency, an Indane distributor, allows its customers to book refills and summon a mechanic to rectify leaks and repair the stoves by just sending an SMS.

The gas agency started this service 10 days ago and the customer response to it has been good, says G. Varadarajan, a partner of the agency. Booking a refill on SMS is the cheapest and the easiest - an SMS message costs Re.1 or less.

Right now, customers in the city can book refills by either visiting their gas agencies, phoning them, mailing a postcard, leaving a message on voice mail, sending a pager message or on e-mail.

"We have developed a software that registers the SMS booking (on 98410-40088) and sends back an acknowledgment with the order number," he says. The agency, which completed 19 years of business recently, expects at least 50 per cent of its 21,000 customers to use the facility. On an average, the agency registers around 500 bookings daily. A former official of Indian Oil Corporation, V. Raghavan, was associated with the software development.

Customers can book round the clock and the service frees them from dealing with the agency staffer. "There is little human interaction for the users as they merely need to send an SMS after typing their customer number. If the customer number is invalid, the computer will message back the customer about that," he adds.

According to Mr Varadarajan, "over a period of time, we can build a database of our customers' mobile numbers." Apart from informing them about the developments in LPG and schemes offered by the agency, such a database can help the agency greet its customers on their birthdays and anniversaries.

With its delivery staff equipped with mobile phones, the agency can depute the personnel to supply the cylinder and attend to the complaints immediately. "There is a provision in the software, which automatically messages the delivery boy concerned about the request with the mobile number of the customer," he explains.

Many cooking gas distributors have evinced interest in the software and are likely to introduce a similar facility soon, he says. In Chennai, the national oil marketing companies have an estimated 16-lakh cooking gas customers, while the six telephone companies have a subscriber base of eight lakh mobile phones.

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