• September 1, 2016
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Citizen Relationship Management Requires a Different CRM

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“With the flexibility of the product, we could have accelerated to a four-month implementation,” Laun said. “However, we wanted to be cognizant of the change we were bringing at such a rapid pace.”

The Consumer Help Center provides a wealth of information that citizens can navigate on their own. For the FCC, the goal of the Consumer Help Center is to facilitate the management of complaints by making them easier to lodge and track. The FCC currently receives more than 450,000 complaints annually.

Now customers receive immediate replies, can view the real-time status of their complaints online, and have seen a vastly improved time-to-resolution. Issues that used to take weeks or months to resolve can now be addressed in days.


Unfortunately, these agencies are the exception rather than the rule. “In a democracy, you would expect a high degree of connection between the government and the people, but that is not the case,” Herriman says. “Most of [the government] is not very customer-friendly.”

Part of the reason for that is that government agencies don’t have the same priorities as their private-sector counterparts. The implementation and operation of CRM software in the business world often focuses on increasing sales, customer retention, and profits. Of course, government agencies don’t sell anything, so there is no expectation for CRM to increase revenue.

“Many of the things on the commercial side that are being done do not really apply to the government because they’re not selling anything or looking to upsell,” Trzupek says.

And in the business world, great customer service is now often seen as a source of differentiation and competitive advantage, something that is also missing in the government space, Herriman contends. The Net Promoter Score, a metric widely used in commercial customer service circles to track how likely consumers are to recommend companies to others, “is not applicable to the government space,” she says.

On an even more fundamental level, the primary difference between public- and private-sector organizations is that “in the government you don’t have customers. Citizens are not customers,” Herriman says.

But that doesn’t give government agencies a free pass to make a mess of customer service. “Governments at all levels still need to be concerned about the constituent experience,” says Chris Bauserman, vice president of product and segment marketing at inContact, a cloud contact center technology provider that was recently acquired by NICE. “This still needs to be an important factor for them.”

Trzupek agrees and points out that citizens’ expectations are still the same. “When I call the government, I expect to be treated like I would if I was calling Best Buy or Sears,” he says. “As a taxpayer, I want to be treated as a VIP.”

Unfortunately, the government doesn’t work that way. While companies can segment out customers and provide better service to those who spend more, buy more frequently, or carry more influence on social media, the government can’t do that. Every citizen has to be treated equally.

“You have to take and handle every call, and give every caller the exact same experience in government,” Trzupek states.

“In the private sector, it’s about building a relationship with the customer. The government doesn’t do that,” he adds.

Because of privacy and anonymity regulations, governments are very limited in what information they can collect about callers, which could also make it difficult for agencies to know that a resident has called about the same problem several times before, for example.

“On the commercial side, you can know a lot about your customers. The government can’t do that,” Trzupek says.


Government CRM software purchases currently account for about 6 percent of the total CRM market, according to some analyst firm estimates, but many firms predict strong growth for public-sector CRM.

Among the technologies being considered, biometrics is one area where growth is expected to be very robust. In May, Research and Markets predicted that biometrics in the government would see an 11.9 percent compound annual growth rate through 2020.

Biometrics, including technologies to identify people by their voices, fingerprints, facial features, hand geometries, DNA, signatures, and irises, are gaining popularity in the government due to rising concerns about fraud and identity theft. They’re playing a larger role in contact centers where citizens are required to call in to receive benefits, as with welfare, food stamps, or unemployment checks.

Other CRM technologies that are seeing heavy government interest include analytics and social media management, according to Herriman. Governments are increasingly turning to social media to help them gauge public sentiment so they can better anticipate and manage call volumes, she says.

But overall, government agencies need to do a better job of reaching out to people on social media. Based on its research, CFI Group found that 63 percent of people who told others about their government interactions did so via social media. Ninety-seven percent of them who were contacted by the agency after a post appreciated the effort, which was reflected in their satisfaction scores (an average score of 80 for those who were contacted, versus an average score of 63 for those who were not).

Herriman recommends what she calls “feedback collectors” that allow government agencies to monitor customer review sites, such as Yelp, for mentions about them. Just like in the private sector, “they can take these reviews into account and use that information to improve operations,” she says.

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