Government departments can see advantages in CRM; they have the will to adopt it but not necessarily the way.
Government officials are waking up to the fact that commercially developed CRM principles can help them run their agencies more successfully. A recently released Accenture global (11 country) study reveals that despite an overall willingness - in some cases even eagerness - to adopt these principles, the governments still have a long way to go before they turn the potential of CRM into reality.
The Accenture Global CRM Study targeted four of the most intensely customer focused agency types: Revenue, Human Services, Motor Vehicles and Government Information, with the view of determining the attitudes of senior departmental officials towards CRM.
Need to improve
Clearly, while government departments are not usually known for their attention to matters like customer retention or profit per customer, they do recognise that they need to improve the ways in which they deal with the public.
According to David Hunter, Accenture's global managing partner, Government practice: "The public's view of routine service is being shaped by the customer-centric, 24 hours per day, seven days per week nature of so many private businesses - and they are now expecting the same from government." So governments have much to gain from the efficiencies provided by CRM practices: self service options, streamlining processes and the sharing of data between departments.
But Hunter says that the research found deep gaps between agencies' recognition of CRM's value and its application on a practical operational level. In general, government managers accept that customer service is key to achieving superior departmental performance, but many are not to keen to embrace what they see as private sector concepts. Fewer than one in ten agencies would develop customer segmentation � possibly because of a distaste for the idea that a government department would separate its customers into classes or groups in the way in which a commercial company would.
However, it's interesting that many respondents were in fact able to identify and describe the major classes or groups of customers who they served, and also accorded customer insight a high priority. It could be that the resistance is actually to the terminology and not the fact.
Technology, not business
Agencies are keen to improve their accessibility and to open channels of customer interaction, but are not so keen on tailoring the services offered through these improved channels. Only one in five plans to develop the means to obtain better insight into customer needs: surely the first step towards tailoring services.
Sadly, the study found that agencies may be viewing CRM more as technology issue than a business issue, and focusing more on developing IT capabilities than on managing information. Nearly two thirds of the agencies surveyed aren't using the data they collect to streamline processes or improve customer service.
Bureaucracy (particularly hierarchical and partitioned organisational structures) and technology were seen as the greatest obstacles to the further adoption of CRM in government.
While most agency managers were keen to partner with other agencies and even private sector organisations to reduce costs by sharing information there are no incentives or capabilities to achieve this.
Senior level executives and managers from agencies in eleven countries were surveyed: Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.