Government CRM - Citizen Relationship Management

While CRM has been researched and applied in private enterprises for years, it has only recently gained attention as a concept for government. Concurrent with the emergence of eGovernment and the general tendency of transferring more and more business concepts into the government domain, articles and studies started to address the topic. Many articles on eGovernment briefly address CRM when referring to aspects such as one-stop government or a multi-channel environment directly or indirectly. Besides CRM, authors introduce slightly altered terms like Citizen Relationship Management (CiRM), Constituent Relationship Management (CRM), Public Relationship Management (PRM) or Citizen Encounter and Relationship Management (CERM) to underline its government orientation and application.

Private sector CRM literature is highly fragmented and lacks a common conceptualization (Zablah/Bellenger/Johnston 2004). It is, therefore, somewhat unsurprising to find the same characteristics in its application to government. Truly sarcastic oberserves might say “garbage in, garbage out”. The literature on CiRM currently lacks a common definition, conceptualization and set of goals. I define Citizen Relationship Management (CiRM) as,

a strategy and set of management practices, enabled by technology with a broad citizen focus, to maintain and optimize relationships and encourage new forms of citizen participation.

Most articles on CiRM review private sector CRM, technological aspects (CRM systems) and expected benefits in government. There is a general agreement that many aspects of CRM are not sector-specific. However, they need to be translated into the context of each sector. Customer segmentation can serve administrators to identify those needing help or who are about to do so. Customer retention strategies can be directed at preventing citizen’s from using a service again. Yet, the termination of unprofitable customers, data mining, broadening the service range and thus choice, the issue of externalities or conceptualizing the citizen as customer are believed to be harder to transfer to government.

Another issue is that term CiRM is applied to describe any citizen-focused initiative or interaction. For instance, public service provision through an online portals are presented as successful CiRM projects. Administrators struggle with the lack of knowledge on CRM, in addition to their discomfort with CRM terminology. Public administrations, which claim to engage in CiRM, connect it to single customer service initiatives, online portals, electronic case management, call centers, physical one-stop service centers and CRM software. However, the literature offers little to no insights into organizational, cultural or process related changes in CiRM initiatives in terms of a holistic understanding of CRM.

King (2007) analyzed the results of the British CRM Pathfinder program (2001-02) and the CRM National Programme (2003-04). The majority of CRM projects focussed on adding CRM capabilities to call centers and one-stop shops. Participating municipalities can be in different stages of a proposed CRM development path which do not build upon each other. Therefore, a contact center and multi-channel environment may be realized without the changes towards a customer centric organization. In addition, there was little evidence for citizen analytics (segmentation, needs analysis), organizational changes (bridging departmental silos) or true multi-channel access. Janssen and Wagenaar (2002) found similar results and concluded that Dutch CiRM efforts are in an “embryonic stage”. Along these lines, in their survey of the status quo of CRM in German public administration, Bauer, Grether and Richter (2002) reported that the CRM elements implemented are far from meeting the holistic concept of CRM. Per-sonalization and a closer analysis of commonly used public services are frequent practices, while segmentation or profitability analyses remain untested concepts. Among the biggest barri-ers to exploring CRM, German administrations mention their lack of human resources and time constraints. In the United States, CiRM is mostly connected to 311 non-emergency number call center initiatives and innovations such as the performance management concept CITISTAT.

Based on some of these facts, I strongly recommend making sure to come up with a clear definition and concept of CiRM before communicating it throughout the organization and attempting an implementation.CiRM is more than a contact center and it is also different to eGovernment although both can certainly enrich each other.

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