Today some 30 per cent of local government authorities in different countries claim robust customer service strategies, but less than 10 per cent have actually implemented a joined-up service approach. It is the need for a fundamental shift in thinking that creates the challenges in CRM implementation, yet without that shift the goals of the modernizing government agenda and joined-up service delivery cannot be achieved.
Some of the challenges in Incubating Public Sector CRM are:
• Organizational change. Fundamental organizational issues need to be addressed to achieve the cultural change to enable successful citizen-centric service delivery. Customer service requirements must be assessed and understood before internal processes and working practices can be amended to enable the service delivery. Cross-organizational cooperation requires a high profile sponsor and often some external challenge, to drive service delivery away from traditional stovepipes towards a citizen-centric model.
• Cost. As ever, funding is also a major issue but there are clear return on investment (ROI) measurements that can be used to cost-justify the investment. Additionally, with the overwhelming focus of the government on improved delivery of public services, projects without a modernizing government/service delivery focus cannot gain funding. ROI measures of improved performance and cost savings or displacement can be achieved. Market research can be used to monitor the number of lost calls that are now reduced, as well as customer perception of service quality. It is important to remember, however, that while consolidating separate customer service points into a one-stop shop can deliver economies of scale, the attendant rise in the quality of the service tends to prompt a significant increase in its use, which may then require additional staff to be employed.
• Technology. There are excellent CRM applications in the market that are mature and proven. However, to deliver citizen-focused services they need to support access to integrated back office systems supporting a range of service areas. The CRM application will handle scripting, contact management and tracking, but it needs knowledge management principles to enable staff to pull knowledge from diverse applications to meet customer needs. So, in addition to the complex process of integrating legacy applications, introducing call centres and supporting Web access, CRM solutions also need to address knowledge management and workflow. To compound the issue, such solutions need to support not just telephone requests and letters but increasingly, electronic forms (e-forms), all with the same levels of service and according to predefined response times.
The government is working hard to introduce best practice - such as in call centres - to provide guidance and advice. There are also a number of standards initiatives under way to aid this process, such as the Electronic Government Framework and Web Guidelines which establish mandatory standards for the usability of government services, including Web navigation and transactions.
Citizen services in action
The ukonline.gov.uk portal is the principal entry point to online government information and services for the citizens in UK. Content on the portal is organized around the needs of the citizen, using 'life episodes' to enable users to access all the information they need about a particular event without having to understand the workings of government or departmental delivery structures. Such life episodes include death and bereavement, moving home, and pensions and retirement. In addition to powerful search engines and real-time government news, the portal also includes easy-access pages to support the visually impaired or those with low reading skills.
Public Sector CRM - Start with contact centre
This article has emphasized the fact that while CRM solutions are a fundamental component of delivering joined-up citizen services, dropping a CRM solution into an existing set of customer service processes is not going to achieve long-term modernizing government goals. The contact centre is a first implementable CRM step towards the new citizen service vision. The centre is an organizational entity focused on customer service at the point of contact, and provides a range of services supported by clear operational objectives.
A CRM solution provides a platform for improved services to the customer. Critically, it provides a building block for the delivery of e-enabled processes as demanded by the government by 2012. This can, however, only be achieved if an organization takes a strategic review of its approach to delivering customer services and changes its internal culture to achieve cross-functional service. Simply automating existing processes using CRM solutions will provide short-term efficiency gains, but without transforming service delivery there is no building block for e-enablement.
Too many public sector call centres offer a 'one number' solution that provides the citizen with an immediate response but has no depth or knowledge with which to resolve issues: it is simply fielding calls. By creating an integrated contact centre that exploits the sophisticated elements of CRM technology such as scripting, call tracking, information and integrated line-of-business systems, the entire customer interaction is tracked from start to finish, problems are resolved quickly, with fewer calls, and the level of service offered is unprecedented.
This integrated approach delivers better customer processes that can be e-enabled easily to meet the government's targets. CRM is not just a means to add a short-term fillip to existing, sometimes poorly regarded, services, but actually provides an opportunity for a fundamental step change in service delivery and a platform for future development towards multi-channel services based on a holistic citizen view.