Today's Buzzword: CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

By Cohen, Sheldon; Moore, James | Public Management, April 2000 | Go to article overview
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Today's Buzzword: CRM (Customer Relationship Management)


Cohen, Sheldon, Moore, James, Public Management


"Customer relationship management," also known as CRM, is one of the hottest catch phrases in information technology (IT) today. What can CRM do for local government managers? Consider these two scenarios:

The council is meeting Tuesday night after a big snowstorm. You know from reports on the radio and television and in the newspaper that the council will be asking questions about the supposed number of complaints received regarding snowplowing by the locality and its contractors. These complaints could have come to multiple local government departments by several means, including the telephone, e-mail, conventional mail, and walk-in visits.

The question is: How can you, the manager, come prepared with an analysis of complaints broken down by neighborhoods and of the responses made by the locality, in order to answer the council's queries? For example, were the complaints mainly about routes plowed by the department of public works or about ones plowed by private contractors? Can you use desktop mapping with your CRM application to help you in this analysis?

Mrs. M calls the mayor at home at 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning to ask why her garbage wasn't picked up by 7:30 a.m. as usual. When the mayor calls you at 8:05 a.m., you should be able to use the workstation at your desk while the mayor is on the phone with you to view a list of all of Mrs. M's previous calls to the locality for any reason, together with the locality's response to each call. You also should be able to e-mail this list to the mayor while you're on the phone so that he or she can view it and print it. Or the mayor should be able to look these up and print them out while you still are on the phone. These capabilities ought to be extremely helpful in putting the mayor and council at ease over the situation.

Local governments should regard CRM as a mission-critical application just like computer-aided dispatch (CAD) in public safety or the payroll function. Customers have every right to expect the same level of IT-assisted service from local government as they now receive more and more often from other organizations using CRM systems. In its August 23, 1999, issue, the IT publication Information Week reports that more than 40 percent of private companies already use CRM.

CRM's goals are to use information technology to help an organization stay abreast of its customers' concerns--what they are calling about and why--and to aid in making a timely and appropriate response to customers' calls. Even with the most basic form of CRM, the employee who receives a call can look up whatever computer-based information the organization already may have about the caller while the caller is on the phone and conversing with the employee.

This "dispatch" mode performs a similar function to what your public safety organization already does when it receives calls. This aspect of CRM may require the employee who receives the call to input the customer's name or address into the computer system. In more advanced CRM systems using computer-telephony integration (or CTI), however, this link between the phone call and the local government's data files occurs automatically, with no human intervention required, just as it does with automatic location identifier/automatic name identifier (ALI/ANI) information in a CAD application.

Management Is Key to Successful CRM Use

In Bowling Green, Kentucky, City Manager Chuck Coates keeps in regular contact with the city's citizen assistance officer, who reports directly to the city manager. Bowling Green prides itself on calling the citizen back or sending a written response on the same day in virtually 100 percent of all cases.

Through his own desktop workstation, Coates himself has real-time access to all calls and related work orders. He also monitors all outstanding calls and those that may involve special circumstances, like the possibility of litigation.

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Today's Buzzword: CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
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