Declaration of Customer Service

Serving the public is the basic principle behind the government in the United States. Unfortunately, when it comes to customer service many citizens feel government lags behind private enterprises. Slow lines, out-of-date resources, long waits, and overburdened representatives are all symptomatic of the current public sector service crisis. A recent KANA study on customer service within the public sector found that more than half of all citizens polled are seeking Web-based interaction with state and federal government agencies, because of the inefficiencies of offline customer service. Online service is now commonplace across such private industries as financial services, healthcare, travel, and retail, and the public has grown accustomed to the benefits of automated customer service. The public is increasingly looking to government agencies to offer the same type of service found in the private sector. Fortunately, there are government advocates that are following the path forged by leading corporations to implement strategic Web-based customer service applications. But despite federal legislation (e.g., the E-Government Act of 2002 and the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998) designed to capitalize on Internet technology to make it easy for citizens and businesses to interact with the government, the full deployment of these systems have yet to become commonplace. Just providing the appropriate tools is not always enough for improving customer service within the government. Government agencies should realize eCRM deployments are not only an effective means for providing better services to their constituents. eCRM deployments have also proven to be an effective investment in lowering operational expenditures, at a time when government agencies are looking to eliminate costs wherever possible. According to research conducted by Gartner, by automating mundane tasks service personnel were more able to focus on and effectively manage in-person customer relations, therefore maximizing employee productivity. In addition, industry-accepted estimates show that the cost of an offline service transaction can be anywhere from $15 to $25 per transaction. Online transactions at the high end average $2, and Web-based self-service costs pennies per transaction. The savings in time and money, and the increase in customer satisfaction, make online customer support critical for public sector agencies. So how can government agencies successfully make the cross over to an automated eCRM solution? First, each agency must evaluate the quality and cost of its current customer service offering and determine how well it is meeting client-demand and how cost-effective it is to the agency. Government agencies that are handling a high volume of inquiries from its citizens will likely see a rapid return on their investment in an eCRM solution and the return on this investment becomes increasingly more significant by moving these inquiries to more cost effective e-channels. Second, government agencies need to determine what eCRM solutions will best meet their needs. In some cases, the strategic deployment of an entire suite of contact center solutions is required. In most others, more tactical deployments of augmenting existing systems with high-volume email management solutions or implementing best-in-class knowledge base solutions will meet the government agency's needs. In either case government agencies should look for vendors that can quickly deploy their solutions in a modular approach with a six- to12-month achievable return on investment. This flexibility will ensure that later phases of the overall eCRM strategy will continue to receive the funding and support needed to build a complete solution to serve the constituents. The customer is the most important element to any business success, whether in the private or public sector. The government sector must take the lead from private industries, and increase its online service options to keep pace with growing consumer demand and to reduce costs to meet the realities of today's economy. About the Author By Chris Hall is director of industry solutions at KANA. He has 15-plus years experience in the CRM industry and has been instrumental in leading the direction and strategy for KANA's contact center products. Prior to joining KANA, Hall spent a decade working in many diverse areas of CRM. From line manager of CRM consulting practices to call center operations, he uses his experience to strategize about and develop products for today's largest industries.
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