Leveraging Digital Solutions to Keep Volatility at Bay

Oil and gas equipment supplier Chuan Kok has fast-tracked its adoption of digital solutions to cope with an uncertain environment

As a leading components supplier in the oil and gas sector, local enterprise Chuan Kok has been operating in challenging conditions since oil prices tumbled in 2015. To combat the downturn, the management has devised a strategy that would leverage digitalisation to deliver quality and reliable products to their customers, provide expert advice, and unparalleled after-sales service.

“We repositioned, making clientele relationships our top priority. This has been what set us apart in the industry for the past four years,” said Chuan Kok CEO Ivan Cai.

In particular, the company focused on three key factors for improvement – adding value to their customers’ journey, removing points of friction in the company’s communications and sales flow, and being always prepared for an uncertain future.

This last priority has become especially pertinent as Chuan Kok battles yet another crisis in the form of the pandemic. BizQ speaks to Mr Cai on the company’s digitalisation efforts and how this has helped the business during the COVID-19 crisis.

How has Chuan Kok been affected by COVID-19?

Despite the measures taken to digitalise, we experienced a drop in sales this year as our major clients were severely affected by the pandemic. However, going through our digitalisation journey has really made a difference for us. COVID-19 has shown us that technology is vital to help businesses continue to operate and adapt to the already-changing environment.

With digitalisation, we are able to effectively review the data of our services and clients so that we can rapidly formulate a strategy to overcome this unprecedented crisis. We are also able to remain closely connected with our clients, sharing the most updated news and supporting them – this has been particularly important as we are an essential service provider. As a result, the open rate of our weekly email newsletter to our clients saw a 30 per cent increase. We also aim to build an academy system where this industry’s ‘freshmen’ can come to our website to learn something useful.

We are also planning to expand our geographical diversification. Empowered by technology, we are working to diversify and expand our business to other countries such as Indonesia and Australia over the next three to five years.

Can you elaborate on the company’s digitalisation strategy?

Overall, we aimed to digitalise processes to achieve greater productivity in our operations, and make us more agile and nimble in adapting and making changes. By shortening the timeline for administrative tasks, we can spend more time engaging with our clients and gathering insights on how to help them better. In this regard, sales and marketing has been one area where we have been able to successfully shorten the process.

We leveraged a range of tools and platforms to help us achieve this, such as HubSpot sales and marketing automation software, as well as e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Shopify and Weebly, which have allowed us to expand our customer reach globally.

What are some support schemes that Chuan Kok tapped on to digitalise?

We have taken advantage of Infocomm Media Development Authority’s SMEs Go Digital scheme and Enterprise Singapore’s Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG). Amid the recent circuit breaker measures, IMDA has also enhanced the support level for adoption of digital solutions to ensure business resilience and continuity.

What were some of the challenges in implementing the solutions?

The toughest part of the process was to implement the solutions from front-end to back-end, given the amount of paperwork and habits that have been built over three decades. To assimilate our team members successfully, we were clear in our vision, and shared with them that they were an integral part of our future as we progress together. For some, it was initially uncomfortable, but having each other’s backs made the transition a little easier.

On that note, our management team has been the catalyst of change during this journey. With them helming the digitalisation process and working with the new tools first, it helped pave the way for other team members to follow suit.

How has Chuan Kok benefited from digitalisation?

With HubSpot, we have been able to bring even more value to our customers and provide personalised service. Dissemination of educational content has also been a lot easier, further strengthening our relationship with our clients.

In terms of sales and marketing, the enhanced analytics system has helped us to better profile our customers, leading to a revenue growth of 22 per cent. With the HubSpot customer relationship management (CRM) system, our team members receive a complete view of our prospect’s journey so that we can tailor our strategies to their needs. Our sales team is also able to do ‘more with less’ by using the sales automation tools. Digitalisation has also helped us to expand globally to USA and Canada.

We also ensure our team members have opportunities to upskill and evolve their job roles with digital technology. We embrace experimentation by encouraging each team member to lead the implementation of digital projects. They can enhance their digital literacy in areas such as digital marketing, and data analysis skills, and we adopt a “learning-by-doing” strategy as part of our upskilling initiatives.

What advice would you give to aspiring businesses on their digital transformation journeys?

Digitalisation requires change at all levels – from strategy and business models to individual team members. Each component of the company that needs to be digitalised represents both a challenge and an opportunity. With a good strategy, resources and partners, these challenges can be overcome. As renowned investor Charlie Munger once said, “The company that needs a new machine tool, and hasn’t bought it, is already paying for it”.