Magazine article Government Finance Review

Technology and Strategy for Customer Relationship Management: A Primer for Finance Officers and Public Managers

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Technology and Strategy for Customer Relationship Management: A Primer for Finance Officers and Public Managers

Article excerpt

This article examines technologies and tactics governments can adopt in order to better their customer relations with the citizenry.

According to a poll conducted for the nonprofit Council for Excellence in Government last year, most Americans, especially young Americans, say that government is no longer of, by, and for the people. The level of disconnection between citizens and government rises with each succeeding generation. The good news in this research is that most Americans, again especially young people, think that in terms of improving Americans' lives, government will play a role in the future that equals or exceeds its role in the past. But how do we get there from here?

Innovative use of technology can be a catalyst for transforming governing and democratic processes. However, technology is only part of the puzzle--it is a powerful enabler that, correctly applied, can be an integral part of a larger transformation strategy converging private-sector practices, public policy, management strategies, service delivery, information, and technology in a collaborative fashion.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a broad strategy. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just a technological solution to customer service activities. The core of the new e-government paradigm is the transformation of customer relationships and the processes and mediums that support them. An effective CRM strategy raises customers above traditional departmental and bureaucratic lines and makes them the center of service activities. Rather than employing compartmentalized, program-driven budgeting and customer service methods, a successful CRM strategy transforms disparate government budgets and processes into an integrated, customer-centric service culture--one that aims to maximize lifetime relationship value.

The new economy, the Internet, and other advanced technologies have ushered in an age where geographic, program, and departmental boundaries are disappearing--opening the doors to a broader view of government customers and prospective customers. These customers come in many forms--from citizens, constituents, compliers, and contractors to employees, elected officials, suppliers, and the media. An effective CRM strategy will transform governing processes and apply advanced technology to create a customer-centric, collaborative government environment that crosses government domains.

The Customers of Government

In the current buzz about CRM, many people have tried to morph this term to make it fit the traditional philosophy and terminology of government. Customer Relationship Management has become "Citizen" Relationship Management, "Constituent" Relationship Management, "Complier" Relationship Management, and "Contractor" Relationship Management. Each one of these new terms deals with distinctly different segments of the true customer base of government. Which one is correct? They all are--but "Customer" continues to be the best concept to adhere to, as it encompasses both those activities that are shared with the private sector and those activities that are unique to government. It also recognizes that an individual may play more than one of these other roles.

Government's "customers" come in many forms. They can be ordinary citizens looking for information to register their children in public school or apply for assistance of some kind. They can be local businesses in need of services from the Chamber of Commerce, from a county inspector, from a zoning official, ot from the state incorporation regulators. They can be elected and appointed officials in need of administrative or operational information and metrics that help them deal with the media, the public, budget planners, and legislators. They can be employees of a government entity that require internal services or information to do their jobs. They can be suppliers of goods and services to the government organization. …

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