BSES companies at Delhi of Reliance ADA Group pride itself on providing electricity to two-thirds of Delhi's population--that's 32 lakh customers-- which makes its ingrained culture of customer centricity useful.

"For an artist, the appreciation of the audience is most important. Similarly, for BSES, appreciation from the end beneficiary is very important. I personally visit our customer care offices to talk to customers," says K.B. Singh, VP, BSES Reliance ADA Group.

That's how, for instance, he discovered that a customer had been wrongfully blamed for power theft. "The customer said he wasn't stealing electricity. Somebody else was hooking cables from the electricity box," says Singh.

As a result of that conversation, Singh checked on the success rate of BSES's theft detection initiatives. What he found surprised him. Out of every 100 theft cases that were raided by BSES, only 10-15 people were actual power thieves, the rest were innocent.

"We made changes to the systems by bringing in exhaustive offline analytics which logs a customer's consumption pattern, creates flags for thefts, and any manipulations of supplied electricity. BSES analytics team found miscreants from looking at these analytics, made a list, and sent it to the enforcement team. We also use cameras and other recording equipment to capture information electronically to weed out corruption in the form of enforcement agents asking for bribes in return for a get-out-of-jail-free-pass for implicated customers," says Singh.

By the time he was done, the accuracy rate of BSES' theft detection initiatives rose to between 85 and 90 percent.Singh's customer centricity stems partially from a company-wide focus to meet with customers, an ideal that goes all the way back to when it started in 2002. One of the ways BSES interacts with customers is a forum called 'gyan abhiyan'--a brainchild of IT that has since been taken over by the customer care division. Under gyan abhiyan BSES staffers meet with Resident Welfare Associations around Delhi to understand their problems. Singh says that he ensures that, off and on, IT is represented at these meetings.

Singh's focus on 'end beneficiaries' (he doesn't like using the word users or customers) has led to many of the initiatives that have given BSES the reliable, pro-active reputation it has. Take for example how BSES informs its customers of pre-planned maintenance schedules, a.k.a power cuts. Most Indian consumers have gotten used to their utilities not informing them of brown outs, apart from the basic newspaper announcements. In comparison, BSES also sends SMSes and e-mails.

Today, Singh says, 50 percent of BSES' customer base has registered their numbers with the company.

Another conversation with a customer brought about additions to BSES' feature-rich online portal. "Earlier, if an anomaly was detected in the bill of a customer, our customer care representative would scan through the system for errors and try to address the problem. Our eureka moment occurred when we realized that this information could be made available directly to the customers. The online portal was then fleshed out to include more information. Customers can now check their consumption patterns and various other types of information own their own. As a result the number and the kind of requests that they have logged on the portal have come down," says Singh.

In doing so, Singh and the BSES, have raised the bar on what consumers expect from their utilities. More power to him.