Governments fail to address CRM needs

Government agencies are not getting on top of customer relationship management (CRM) despite claiming that it is a top priority, according to a new global study from Accenture.

Although 92 per cent of government executives said it was "important or very important" to provide superior customer service, more than 90 per cent of the executives who participated in the study said their agencies do not yet deliver this. A mere 28 per cent of respondents said their agencies are effective today at delivering services through the channels their customers prefer.

The study, "CRM in Government: Bridging the Gaps," is based on interviews with more than 140 government-agency executives in 15 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Only 40 per cent of respondents said their agencies resolve customer questions efficiently; just over a third of respondents said their agencies route calls and make assignments efficiently; only around a quarter could claim their agencies track customer requests effectively; and a mere 22 percent said their agencies follow up with citizens and businesses to monitor their satisfaction.

"Governments must take their cue from the private sector and better understand the wants and needs of their customers - the citizens and businesses they serve - and modify their processes to accommodate them," said Steve Rohleder, group chief executive of Accenture's government operating group. "Fortunately, a growing number of governments are taking a step in the right direction by involving their customers in the creation of new services."

The study found that the most common priority among agencies is to develop online transactions via portals, but traditional communication channels, such as the telephone, still dominate interactions with customers, even though a top objective is providing multichannel access.

Only 50 per cent of agencies use more than two channels extensively, and only one-third have a contact center facility that manages interactions over multiple channels, including telephone, fax, the Internet and e-mail. Only 40 per cent of executives said they are efficient in resolving customer requests.

But in the UK at any rate, there is a legacy problem of poor quality of service driven by a one size fits all approach, according to CRM consultancy Detica, "All government organisations are currently considering how they can become more citizen-centric and improve the levels of service that can be provided," argues Martin Sutherland, Director of Public Sector at Detica. "The danger is that eGovernment investments will stimulate new demand that, unless carefully planned for, will prove unaffordable to support at the improved levels of service that citizens will come to expect."

"From our experience, a deep understanding of citizens' needs is vital to allow the way services are delivered in the future to be better tailored to actual needs. This will make government more accessible and allow greater choice to be offered. To successfully transform how citizens interact with government, citizen relationship management programmes must synchronise the introduction of enabling technologies with organisational and cultural change. Only by doing this, can lasting improvements to the citizen experience be achieved."

Kadence UK Ltd. conducted telephone interviews for Accenture with 143 senior executives in central government agencies that provide welfare, immigration, revenue, licensing and employment services to citizens. The interviews were conducted between December 2002 and March 2003 with executives from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain the United Kingdom and the United States.

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