The public sector may be thinking about it, but they aren’t completely ready to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, according to a report published by Accenture.
The study encompassed 11 different countries, including Australia, Finland, Singapore and the United States. While not specific to any level of the Canadian government, it targeted senior executives and middle management at the provincial and federal level. Four agency types were examined: revenue, human services, licensing and e-government.
From the public sector’s vantage point, a re-thinking of ideologies may be needed if they are ever to make the transition to implementing CRM, according to Accenture. “Historically, government agencies haven’t felt the need to service their customers. That came through clearly in the survey because some of our respondents were uncomfortable with the word customer, and (even) with some of the principles applied to it,” said Chris Brennan, partner at Accenture’s Canadian government practices in Ottawa.
He said that governments are beginning to implement CRM but what isn’t happening is a wide-scale, cross-departmental plan to install solutions. And because of the very nature of its structure, the need to focus on the customer, or citizen, has not historically existed. “The government is like a monopoly, this is what we sell and this is what you’re buying…If you’ve never been in the customer world its hard to be customer-centric.”
If CRM is about improving services to customers, few would argue that consumers would benefit, but the government in this instance is no different than any private company, and cost is a both a factor and barrier given the economic climate, said Brennan.
How the solution should be installed – whether on a federal level first, followed by the provinces and so on, or in one full swoop across the country – is another question, he added
There are also privacy issues, and the new Privacy Act itself, that need to be addressed. “(Privacy) is kind of like Big Brother…will the government know everything about you,” Brennan said.
Richard Thompson, IT business partner with the city of Edmonton, said comparing the public and private approaches to CRM is difficult because each have their own agendas. “A good CRM in the public sector means you’re going to sell more or not lose a customer. In the government sector, your customer is fixed. You’re not going to sell them more.”
As a government employee at the municipal level, adding a CRM package would be beneficial in streamlining property tax payments for their customers. However, Thompson acknowledged that privacy issues raise concerns.
He said the city of Edmonton has plans to eventually incorporate CRM, but that it is still a distant proposition.
Accenture in Ottawa can be reached at http://www.accenture.ca
The city of Edmonton government office is http://www.gov.edmonton.ab.ca/.