• August 1, 2006
  • By Colin Beasty, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Market Focus: The Public Sector--Eye on the State

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Businesses have been raising the bar of customers' service expectations in the private sector for years; now those heightened expectations are crossing into the public sector. Pressures on elected officials to manage costs and improve what some within the public sector call citizen relationship management have led many cities and countries to embrace CRM. There has been tremendous growth recently in the number of government agencies that rely on 311 centers to better service nonemergency calls, either through the Web, phone, or by email. Dozens of cities throughout the United States, including Minneapolis, New York, and Baltimore, have 311 centers or are in the planning stages. Integration into dispatch systems is critical for 311 by its very nature, says Dave Kuenzel, CRM solutions principal, SAP public services. Typically, 311 centers act as a hub through which all citizen inquiries are forwarded to the right department. By giving citizens a single point of contact, a municipality can reduce costs by "consolidating many smaller contact centers into one," Kuenzel says. Government Web sites are playing an increasingly important role in cost cutting. Because the public sector is usually strapped for cash, Web sites and Web self-service have come to the forefront in recent years, says Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results. "E-government satisfaction levels have hit an all-time high," he says. "Web sites have become increasingly important thanks to the popularity of the Internet. It's a boundless space where the public sector can exchange an endless stream of information with citizens." Case management is another use of CRM within the public sector, from healthcare agencies to justice and law enforcement. Public sector agencies are using CRM to track cases much like the private sector tracks customer life cycle. Case management has become increasingly important in the wake of 9/11 to law enforcement agencies, which must now share their databases as part of the Homeland Security Act. Many police departments are also watching CRM's mobile options for PDAs and handheld devices as they look to move case management data from laptops to the palms of their hands. Individual agencies are turning to revenue management and analytics: Departments are using revenue management customer information systems to consolidate billing and transactional information. Analytics, particularly those solutions that incorporate mapping functionality, are also in use by transportation departments to plan new bus or subway lines and targeted marketing campaigns to inform citizens of these systems. For professionals in the public sector who want to implement a CRM system, industry analysts suggest they consider PeopleSoft, SAP, and Siebel Systems. For implementation help they suggest that public sector pros consider turning to Accenture, Capgemini, and IBM PCS. Case Study CRM Goes Green Right Now
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the government agency that works to "protect human health and the environment," needed to unify its customer contact processes. The agency, divided into offices like the Office of Water and Office of Air and Radiation, was receiving approximately 90,000 email inquiries per month from citizens, state and local government agencies, other federal agencies, and even other countries. The EPA also has multiple call centers to handle phone inquiries for 1-800 hotlines like its Safe Drinking Water Hotline. Unfortunately, the call centers and email response capabilities didn't talk to one another. Consistency and timeliness began to suffer. If questions came in that were better suited for another office, the agency had no way of transferring those inquiries to the proper department. "We were very siloed," recalls Jeff Tumarkin, comanager of enterprise customer services solutions at the EPA. "At an enterprise level we had no way to track, analyze, or identify gaps to ensure consistent and timely responses. Nor did we have a good feedback loop to improve our Web sites." With budget cuts looming, the EPA's Office of Environmental Information realized it needed to adopt an "enterprisewide system to automate and streamline all of our customer inquiries," Tumarkin says. After evaluating of the CRM market and potential products, the EPA chose on RightNow Technology's Enterprise Customer Service Solution. A pilot rollout program was started in the spring of 2004. On October 1, 2005, the agency made the on-demand solution available. Since then Tumarkin has put his "sales-and-marketing hat on," and has been lobbying to various offices to get buy-in. There have been good results. Email inquiries have been reduced by 70 to 80 percent, according to Tumarkin. This has enabled the agency to gain a firm grip on email campaigns it receives from environmental organizations. Any Web-based inquiry can now be routed to the proper office. The EPA has focused strictly on Web-based communications up to this point, but it is prepping its Safe Drinking Water Hotline to go live with RightNow Technology's Service solution. It will enable the call center to answer and route calls with a CT!I/Web self-service solution integrated with other communication channels.Until now it's been all about the Web, but we're moving into our call centers now," Tumarkin says. "This is just the beginning." --C.B.
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