CRM.GOV: No Longer the Bailiwick of the Private Sector, CRM Is a Prime Focus of Government Agencies

Article excerpt

Organizations that use CRM have long been raising the bar of customers' service expectations in the private sector. Those expectations are now crossing over into the public sector. Government agencies are feeling the same pressures as their corporate cousins--both financially and from customers. Recognizing the necessity and opportunities presented by those challenges, government agencies are embracing CRM to conquer them.

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In fact, industry pundits maintain that the biggest growth area in CRM over the next three years will be in the public sector, especially within state and local governments. Barton Goldenberg, president of CRM consultancy ISM, expects the government sector to spend at least $2 billion on CRM software over the next three years, and at least $3 billion on CRM services over the same period. "This is the number one growth sector in the CRM industry today. There is no question about it," he says.

Currently, the three most common areas for governments' CRM investments are 311 initiatives (phone calls for nonemergency issues), case management, and billing capabilities. The following case studies reveal how three government agencies are already experiencing rousing success in those areas.

One Call to City Hall

The City of Baltimore--thanks largely to its investments in CRM--is perhaps one of the most highly acclaimed municipalities for its turnaround efforts. In 1999 the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration declared Baltimore the U.S. city with the highest violent crime and drug addiction numbers. Geography had a lot to do with it: A substantial amount of international drug traffic comes into Maryland via Baltimore's seaport, which largely contributed to Baltimore's heroin and cocaine abuse problem.

This was only part of the problem. From 1990 to 2000 the city's living conditions had been steadily spiraling downward. The unemployment rate, the slow growth of new jobs, and the median household income per capita--which ranked near the bottom of Maryland's 24 jurisdictions--made the city unbearable for many. Not surprisingly, Baltimore's population declined more than 11 percent over that decade. "When people left, so did their checkbooks and their taxes," says Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

It didn't help that the city's state and federal funding had also been slowly thinning. Perhaps the agency most affected was the Department of Parks and Recreation, which saw a drop from 1,380 employees in 1980 to 296 today. With the city's cash crunch, revitalization hopes were diminishing--until Mayor O'Malley took office in January 2000. Like many of his corporate counterparts, Mayor O'Malley was charged with generating more for less. He knew he had to act fast, as money would become scarcer if taxpayers continued to leave.

Prior to his inauguration O'Malley was a city councilman pursuing efforts to fight the city's high crime rate. He had been evaluating New York City's crime tracking and forecasting software, called COMSTAT, and wanted to implement something similar in Baltimore. As the newly elected mayor, he did so--to track accountability not only for each Baltimore police precinct, but also for all city agencies.

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Mayor O'Malley also began to evaluate existing agency processes to get a sense of how city agencies were providing services to citizens. In one case he asked three water utility managers to explain the way in which the same citizen service request would be resolved. To his dismay he got three different answers.

Citizens calling city agencies were often sent on wild goose chases, getting transferred up to seven times before speaking to the right person, according to Elliot Schlanger, CIO for the Mayor's Office of Information Technology for the City of Baltimore.

To make matters worse, there was no way to track service requests, so if a citizen called a month later to check the status of a request, he would often have to repeat every detail. …