The federal government has launched many initiatives in the past to help improve service to its citizens. Many of the efforts have been successful-- about 97 percent of the Social Security Administration's callers get through in five minutes or less. The National Park Service visitors' centers typically receive "good" to "very good" customer service ratings. Phone inquiries to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's toll-free customer help line following disasters are normally handled with a single call.1 The Center for Disease Control's automated system provides "information on demand" by allowing individuals using a touch-tone telephone to call anytime and receive health-related information-such as health requirements/precautions for international travel, signs and symptoms of Lyme disease-by phone or fax machine.2
Government needs to improve upon these successes, however. For example, President Clinton proposed the "Putting People First" initiative that included a transition to a more "customer-oriented" entrepreneurial government.3 In the context of the Government Performance and Results Act, President Bush has emphasized the need for better management performance in many areas including the basic government function of providing service to the citizens.4
A recent private industry trend involves a strategy called Customer Relationship Management or "CRM." During the past few years, the CRM market has seen significant growth-in 2000, according to the Gartner Group, organizations worldwide paid $23 billion for CRM services and software. That figure is expected to rise to $76.3 billion in 2005.(5) CRM involves an organization taking a customercentric view of its business with the aim of establishing a long-term relationship between the customer and the business.
CRM can be used by an organization to identify which customers it should focus its limited resources on and how to do so effectively. CRM, when done correctly, provides a continuum of experiences that often leads to customer retention. These experiences include inquiries by prospective customer about products and services, customer transactions, requests for information by customers and resolving customer problems. A key part of CRM is the personalization customers receive as part of their relationship with the organization.
CRM involves using tools brought about by improvements in information and communication technologies and include:
* Computer telephony integration-the computerized services of a call center that support activities such as voice recognition for directing calls, matching calls against names in a data base, interaction with the company's website and initiating an intelligent agent application to help with a caller's request.6
* Customer self-service websites-this approach allows the customers to do things themselves such as search for relevant help information, download forms and software, and review frequently asked questions.
* Business intelligence-using analytical techniques such as data mining, one can get a better picture of their customer by identifying patterns and relationships.
* Web portal-a website that provides access to a variety of content quickly and seamlessly.
* Mass customization and rapid fulfillment-a delivery process through which mass-market goods and services are individualized to satisfy specific customer needs.7
There are many examples of CRM successes in private industry such as Amazon.com8 and Dell Computer.9 Lesser-known CRM successes are:
* American Management Association, a business education and management development group, updated its call center and has significantly increased efficiency. Average caller wait times are less than 10 seconds and the AMA now makes 30 percent more in revenues on each call center representative's customer interaction.10
* Hard Rock Cafe strengthened the relationship between the restaurant and customers by building an online web community The Internet serves as a tool for capturing information about its patrons and pushing personalized information (such as upcoming concert information) to those in an effort to bring them back for repeat dining business.11
Government at all levels has successfully implemented a number of CRM initiatives:
* FirstGov (uwwfirstgov.gov) enables citizens to search the full text of every government website currently on the Internet-currently estimated to be between 50 and 100 million pages. Using this customer-centric portal, you only need to know the subject that is to be searched, such as passports, not the name of the agency that is related to that topic, in this case the U.S. Department of State.12
* Fairfax County(www.co.fairfax.va.us) wanted to improve public access so they developed a citizen-centric website that provides access to library services, recreational facilities, traffic services and a myriad of other county government services.
* PA PowerPort (www.state.pa.us/PAPower) is a customizable portal that makes Pennsylvania's state government information and services easier to find and is the gateway to a growing number of interactive government programs. It features a diverse array of services including state government blue pages, lottery results, local weather, regional news and a link to the governor's online pressroom.
* Department of Defense's Military Traffic Management Command (http://baileys-mtmcwww.army.mil/) uses help desk calls from military transportation officers and the trucking industry to identify training courses. Also, CRM software is used to segment incoming calls into different levels of urgency and importance so employees can analyze the types of calls.13
* Internal Revenue Service has streamlined the payment and mailing process for corporate tax payments with CRM techniques. By mining the taxpayer call data, they have reduced the time it takes taxpayers to phone in payments by more than 40 percent and the number of taxpayer requests for help has dropped by 90 percent. The average payment now takes two minutes and 20 seconds, and it happens 100,000 times a day. By analyzing the call volumes, IRS mailings became more efficient by doing a rolling mail-out by ZIP code. This reduced the annual inundation of user support calls.14
* Kiosks have gained renewed interest to support CRM initiatives. For example, CityAccess is a New York City program offering touch-screen kiosks that provides more than 100 interactive transactions via the New York City website. The 59 kiosks generated 2.7 million hits during the demonstration portion of the pilot project. Starting the second year of operation, the system is expected to pay for itself from revenue generated from advertising placed on the screen and the outer kiosk shell.15
Many federal government agencies can benefit from CRM, particularly those that maintain close contact with the citizens such as the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Department of the Treasury (Internal Revenue Service and the Bureau of the Mint) and the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Transportation. Agencies that normally have less direct interaction with the citizens on a day-to-- day basis, such as the U.S. Departments of Defense, Commerce and Justice, can also benefit from implementing CRM strategies by expanding the definition of "customer" to include internal stakeholders such as employees, potential employees, vendors, consultants, etc. Potential CRM strategies would serve employees such as self-service capabilities to Thrift Saving Plan (equivalent to 401(k) benefits) information, rapid and easy accessibility to employment data, and maintaining automated systems that would track recruiting data.
CRM, applied to government, would be different from previous initiatives in that it goes beyond improving "customer service." CRM has the potential of providing streamlined and improved one-stop constituent service, offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It could result in more efficient and effective government services leading to significant cost savings and the agency could increase its revenue. CRM technologies could integrate across functional areas such as personnel, medical, logistics and finance, allowing government employees to devote more time to their primary functions. CRM could bring customer service issues to quicker resolution. It can be used to measure the results of customer actions.16
The advantages offered by CRM for government agencies include the following:
* Provides a "self service" government. Customers are often willing to accept this approach rather than wait for a person to handle their problem.
* Gives customers different channels for products and service delivery since customers are inherently different. Delivery approaches include face-to-face, telephone, fax, e-mail, the Internet, kiosks and written correspondence. Also, customers could expect consistent quality responses independent of the type of inquiry, interaction method, or time of day.
* Heightens two-way communication channels. It is just as important to receive feedback from customers as it is to distribute information to them. This feedback should serve as the basis for continuous system improvement.
* Eliminates forms by integrating computer systems and automating paper-intensive processes to help streamline operations and reduce costs.
* Integrates data bases to establish a continuum of services to the customers.
* Measures the performance and quality of products and services offered. As the adage goes, "What gets measured gets done." Also, focus on attaining 100 percent customer satisfaction.
How does government go about implementing CRM? The following is a list of key implementation steps:17
* Obtain upper management acceptance and commitment on the CRM effort.
* Determine who are your customers-individual citizens, citizen groups, its own employees, other government agencies, including state and local, Congress, contractors and suppliers, and many other stakeholders and partners.
* Identify the needs of each customer group. This will require some marketing techniques such as customer surveys and focus groups. Understanding how they do business is very important to know.
* Identify the products and services you provide those customers. You may even identify new products and services that your agency may wish to provide after identifying customer needs.
* Identify the channels you use to provide the products and services. Look at less traditional channels including kiosks, fax and the web. Study the cost effectiveness of each channel.
* Perform pilot studies that will test the new approach and help in "buying-in" the rest of the agency.
* Measure the effectiveness of communications with your customers through your service channels. In particular, collect various metrics on customer satisfaction.
* Analyze the customers in terms of trends and relationships. Look into customer data mining techniques to identify ways to improve customer service and support.
However, there are a number of issues and challenges related to applying CRM in government that need to be addressed:
In addition, the privacy, security and confidentiality of citizens' records need to be maintained. For example, sensitive medical records of customers need to be protected. New tools might be needed to implement CRM in government and overcome this issue.
* The gap between technology have- and have-nots. Because of the lack of computer technology and communications capabilities, the technology have-- nots will not be able to benefit from CRM initiatives such as the web delivery of services. Government, in partnership with private industry, needs to bridge this technology gap and provide a level playing field for everyone.
* Integration of systems. In the federal government, agencies are to use financial systems that comply with Joint Financial Management Improvement Program JFMIP) Certified Software (www.ifmip.gov) standards. By standardizing through use of these financial modules mostly produced by ERP vendors such as SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle, an organization can then add other ERP modules (human resources, logistics, supply chain management) to achieve an integrated enterprise solution. State and local governments need to establish similar approaches.
* Network bandwidth and reliability. This technical problem is related to the tremendous popularity of the World Wide Web and the huge bandwidth applications such as graphics, sound files and video clips. Technologies such as Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) and cable modems offer help in this area by providing high-bandwidth information to homes and small businesses.
* Equality of service. When used in private industry, CRM aims to target the "best" customer in terms of profit potential. In government, everyone needs to be treated equitably.
* Although these issues and challenges seem formidable, they can be overcome through careful strategic management of CRM initiatives, maintaining a high level of openness and communication between government and citizens, and investigating promising emerging technologies particularly in the areas of security and communications.
* Successes noted in the private industry and in government shows that CRM is not just another management fad. It goes beyond past government initiatives and offers a quantum leap in the improvement of the level and quality of services provided to citizens. Other key stakeholders associated with government such as the internal employees and external suppliers also have a lot to gain from CRM.
1. Barrett, Stephen, "Gore Tells Federal Workers Reinvention Efforts Are Working," American Forces Press Service, www.defenselink.mil/news/Apr1997/n04251997_9704254.html.
2. "Creating A Government that Works Better and Costs Less," Status Report, September 1994, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/npr/library/nprrpt/annrpt/wrkcst94/create.html.
3. Clinton, William, "Putting People First A National Economic Strategy For America," June 21, 1992, http://clinton4.nara.gov/WH/EOP/OP/html/Hope.html.
4. O'Hara, Colleen,, "Pressure Mounts for GPRA," Federal Computer Week, Aug. 3,2001, www.fcw.com/fcw/articles/2001/ 0730/web-gpra-08-03-01.asp.
5. McKenna, Ed. "Over 281 Million Served," Federal Computer Week, 5/14/2001, http:/fcw.com/fcw/articles/2001/0514/ tec-crm-05-14-01.asp.
6. Technology Forecast: 2000, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Menlo Park, CA, April 2000.
7. Gerber Scientific Incorporated, www.mass-customization.com.
8. Balcazar, Priscilla, "How to Audit Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Implementations," Information Systems Control journal, Volume 4,2001.
9. Horgen, Tim "Ten Major Intranet Trend and How We Can Use Them," CIO Magazine, December 21,1999, www.cio.com/ forums/intranet/edit/intranet_trends.html.
10. Blodgett, Mindy, "Masters of the Customer Connection," CIO Magazine, Aug 15,2000, www.cio.com/archive/ 081500_overview.html.
11. Worthen, Ben, "Rock in a Hard Place," CIO Magazine, May 1, 2001, www.cio.com/archive/050101/rock.html.
12. Dean, Joshua, "FirstGov Web portal seeks to brand federal information," Government Executive, June 29, 2000, www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0600/6290j1.htm.
13. Hayes, Heather, "E-gov Hits the Streets," Civic.com, August 6,2001.
16. Draham, Joe, "How to make 'Service to the Citizen' Meaningful," Federal Computer Week, November 5,1999, http://fcw.com/fcw/articles/1999/FCW_111599_103.asp.
17. Dean, Joshua, "Better Service Through Customers," Government Executive, Jan 1, 2001, www.govexec.com/features/0101/0101managetech.htm.
18. Matthews, William, "Agencies Warned on Cookies" Federal Computer Week, April 23,2001, http:fcw.com/fcw/articles/2001/0423/news-cookie-04-23-01.asp.
By: Leslie M.G. Pang, Ph.D., and Robert Norris, Ph.D., CISA
Leslie M. G. Pang, Ph.D, is a professor of Systems Management at the Information Resources Management College, which is part of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He teaches military and civilian leaders in the areas of enterprise applications, customerrelationship management, data management, e-Gov
ernment, the Internet and software technologies. He received a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Utah and a Master in Business Administration (concentrating on Management Information Systems)from the University of Maryland College Park.
Robert Norris, Ph.D, CISA, is a professor of Information Systems Management and chair, Department of Information Operations and Technology, at the Information Resources Management College (IRMC) of National Defense University. He lectures and conducts research in information assurance and security, and he is a
certified information systems auditor. Before coming to IRMC he was a senior analyst in the Accounting and Information Management Division of the U.S. General Accounting Office.…