Vertical Focus: Government

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Industry watchers say there is a gap between government's stated business goals and the use of CRM software and services to deliver on those goals. Local and federal government agencies are implementing CRM solutions, but many are not using CRM to its potential. A recent study by consulting firm Accenture reveals that 92 percent of surveyed government executives consider it either "important" or "very important" to deliver "superior" service, but 90 percent of the respondents say their agencies are not yet delivering that superior service. Steve Rohleder, global chief of Accenture's government practice, says some of the major trends in government CRM include increasing the amount of services offered online and improving the metrics to gauge CRM efforts. "In the past few years there was a huge push just to get information out there, and the only metrics were based on volume," he says. "Now, understanding how to improve effectiveness and efficiency is taking precedence." A 2002 survey by Input predicts that federal CRM spending will rise 18 percent annually, to about $520 million by 2006, and claims that forces driving agencies to use CRM include fraud avoidance, the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998, and the demand for constituent satisfaction. Denis Pombriant, vice president and managing director of Aberdeen Group's CRM practice, says the good news is that the government, often seen as a lagging adopter of technology, is working hard to get on the CRM bandwagon. However, in his view many of these government agencies are simply getting the technology implemented; they have not done much around the methodology and the business practices. "It's easy to put in a system at the Department of Motor Vehicles and reduce the number of people in line," Pombriant says. "But it's something completely different to take CRM and use it...to enhance the whole process in ways we haven't even thought of yet." And while the government is mostly using CRM simply to automate already existing processes, the results are often dramatic and impressive. Ask anyone who no longer has to wait in that DMV line to renew a registration. The government may not be using CRM to increase profits, but its single biggest issue is to provide a high level of service and responsiveness to its customers (or constituents). The government is using CRM on a larger scope and with a much broader range of people than the private sector. When the government uses customer-facing applications they must be accessible to everyone. That means Web sites in multiple languages, accessibility for disabled persons, and the ability to service a wide range of educational levels. In the Accenture study, Canada topped the list of best government online CRM efforts. "Canada is number one because they understand the basic concepts of CRM," Rohleder says. "They are constantly trying to increase their view of their citizens, have a relentless drive to increase service, and have strong leadership that can make change happen." The Unites States fell into the second-tier category. Rohleder says the U.S. can reach the top if more support for CRM starts happening.
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