E-government Is Here to Stay

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As the federal government increasingly embraces operational, collaborative and analytical business models to improve customer satisfaction levels and efficiency, it is coming to realize that just like business, its constituency, or customers, is diverse.

From citizens to employees, contractors to suppliers, businesses to educational institutions, other government agencies to the media, an effective government CRM strategy is one that understands this diversity and connects these different segments through information sharing, collaboration and empowered decision-making.

This is especially important at a time when the American public's level of trust in the government is just half of what it was in the 1960s, and when broad exposure to private-sector products and services has raised expectations, but has lowered tolerance levels. As people grow accustomed to doing business online, they also are demanding that their government offer Internet ease and speed. This can also result in savings, which early studies have shown can be as high as 70 percent when government services are moved online.

The best of these CRM software solutions are easy to personalize, highly scalable and capable of standing alone or integrating with other enterprise management modules, such as financial management and human resources. They manage all of the customer touch points with an integrated, cross-pollinating information technology offering that brings together commercial data from e-commerce, administrative data from e-business and operational data from e-government applications. They minimize bureaucracy and improve service and accountability. These applications can increase productivity, raise citizen satisfaction and facilitate employee retention by:

• Centralizing customer contact while decentralizing response and feedback.

• Improving customer care and call center efficiency and response times - targeting "first-call" and "first-route" resolution.

• Providing citizens and other customers with self-service capabilities over the Web.

• Enabling employees to report technical problems, seek functional and policy advice and submit change requests through an agency's Intranet.

• Connecting office staff to field agency personnel so they can verify information and perform their duties more consistently, effectively and efficiently over the Web or with mobile computing devices.

• Allowing staff to fulfill citizen and other customer requests for information more quickly, consistently and accurately.

• Identifying recurring problems, frequently asked questions and trouble spots.

• Treating citizens like valued customers.

Such programs combine internal employee help-desk applications, outward-facing customer-support modules, field service request and dispatch functions and - believe it or not - tools for contact, campaign and case management. This total customer experience comes together in what's called a customer interaction center, which is the "central nervous system" for CRM programs.

In addition, the Internet-based analytical applications of a good CRM software solution can provide government managers with immediate feedback on key performance indicators, identify bottlenecks and indicate areas of high and low performance. Employees, contractors and suppliers can be given access to self-service modules that help them do their jobs, check inventories and even receive their own performance ratings. Or, through the use of workflow technologies, customers, employees and suppliers may be virtually connected to fulfill and service specific customer needs.

CRM is a government-wide strategy that begins by defining each type of customer and the types of products and services they should expect, as well as targeted service levels and key performance indicators. It also includes "marketing campaigns" needed to attract, retain or inform; necessary feedback loops to improve or discontinue services; and the deployment of strategic organizational and IT resources.

Such a strategy cuts across government domains (federal, state, local and international) to build and maintain collaborative government communities and cultivate personalized, one-to-one service between government and its customers, while reducing costs and increasing revenues.

The era of e-government is here to stay, and customer service and information programs that manage all of the customer touch points in a single, integrated customer interaction center have become imperative. Those visionary agencies that implement CRM programs will reduce per-interaction service costs significantly, improve customer satisfaction dramatically and enjoy loyal, rewarding customer relationships for years to come.

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