Businesses worldwide adopted CRM technologies to be closer to their customers so as to understand their needs and preferences, and to offer better products/services. Recent years have seen the public sector also jumping on the CRM bandwagon and we as citizens are witnessing a lot of government services that have improved accessibility and service delivery.
For example, we are able to file taxes online or pay our utility bills online without having to make trips to the government offices. However, many government agencies still work in silos and connect to the citizens through disparate means. From a citizen’s perspective, a single unified window on the Internet or a call center through which a citizen can connect with all the government agencies to avail of the services each complemented with consistent automated processes would have a radical impact.
Many government agencies still work in silos and connect to the citizens through disparate means.
This underlines the importance of having citizen identification schemes like SSN in United States or UID in India that offers possibilities of a mechanism where the citizen can connect through a single authenticated identity with the government agencies and avail services. Many examples of public sector institutions that have benefited through adoption of CRM systems include 311 in Chicago, San Jose and Baltimore.
Comparison to Private Sector CRM
In comparison to a private sector, where an organization caters to a select group of customers, the challenges are different in the public sector. A public sector CRM would need to have a widespread reach, while a private sector is more controlled in terms of the target audience. While a private sector CRM might have customer retention as the fulcrum of its CRM program, in a public sector all the citizens are customers and due to wide ranging nature of civic offerings, this calls for multiple interfaces of collaboration.
Security concerns like data privacy are likely to be more closely scrutinized in a public sector as compared to the private sector. The acceptance of a CRM program within the internal stakeholders might be higher in a private sector where there can be some resistance from employees.
Building Blocks for Effective Public Sector CRM
To prepare for success in public sector CRM, consider the following building blocks:
- National Citizen Database: Having a national citizen database would be one of the first few basic steps to achieve CRMization in Public Sector. All citizen information can be consolidated and this can be used as a single source of truth for authenticating a citizen’s entitlement to public services.
- Single Point Call Center: Having an “effective and efficient” single point call center with frontline government employee attending to citizens, would be a lot more convenient as citizens would have easy access without having to spend time and energy to get it. Service requests functionality can be enabled with a call center application to register service requests and can be complemented with robust workflow processes that would automate the processing of the requests.
- Online Portal: Having an online portal would offer single window of interaction for the citizen to avail all government services and have more access to government information. A lot of the populations nowadays are mobile and thus would need access to government services from any part of the world. For example : ETax filing or applying for a renewal of passport on a government portal is really a boon, as the benefits range from avoiding a person to be physically present in a country or avoiding long queues or complete transparency of the current status or speedy service. Having an online portal would help address cost concerns as typically self-service portals would cost less to maintain as compared to call center interaction channels. With more population preferring internet, this would also mean lesser call volumes.
- People and Processes: The key to CRMization would be the frontline government staff. Moving away from a traditional way of dealing with citizens to a CRM model, would mean radical change in behavior of the staff. A sound stepping stone to this would be involving the staff in re-engineering the processes as they would have a hands on direct experience of dealing with citizen’s anguish or their own inability to efficiently service a citizen’s request. Early involvement would also mean participative behavior and help in curbing any kind of resistance.
For public sector agencies that would like to walk the path of CRM, a technology blue print as suggested below can be adopted:
- Contact Center Solutions: Implementing a call center solution, with frontline government employees having easy integrated access to fragmented customer services could help manage all citizen interactions from a unified desktop. This can also be complemented with telephony infrastructure to allow systems to queue and route calls based on the nature of service required
- Government Portal: This would provide access to government services through computer terminals, kiosks and mobile phones. The portal can be built as a standalone application with an open architecture so that it can be easily integration with other downstream applications. With the mobile technologies getting evolved more rapidly, the number of mobile users are increasing and having access to the portal via mobile phones would be very beneficial to the citizens.
- CRM Software: A CRM software through its integrated service management approach, automated workflow mechanism and geospatial search capabilities can improve interaction channels with citizen as well as improve the interactions within the government agencies that are working in silos. We thus see that Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Oracle, and others are increasingly setting their sights on the public sector CRM opportunity. Commercial off-the shelf CRM packages offer public sector specific capabilities which can be further integrated with other applications like IVR, and enhanced to meet specific regional service requirements .They also include email and mobile integrations to provide real-time updates to citizens
A CRM program in a public sector environment, by enabling automated and rationalized interactions among citizens and government agencies, can go a long way towards improving the efficiency of government services. The key benefits include but are not limited to:
- Faster delivery of services thus resulting in improved satisfaction among citizens dealing with government agencies.
- Improved transparency thus enabling the frontline government staff to take ownership and be accountable for providing services to citizens. For example, citizens would know the exact status of all their requests using an online portal.
- Modern IT infrastructure with automated processes thus minimizing manual intervention.
- 360 degree view of citizen thus enabling effective adherence to regulations and compliance. For example, a citizen who has not filed income tax returns turns up for renewal of passport, the same can be withhold until the returns are filed.
Having a single window of connect holds a promise of path-breaking nation-wide CRM initiative and this can be the big opportunity for any government to re-define the civic culture.