CRM builds bridges to citizens
Government organisations in the region are turning to customer relationship management solutions to open up new channels of two-way communication with citizens, improve handling of processes, and create a platform to launch new e-services
With the development of online government services and increased interaction with citizens, government organisations in the region have also realised the importance of having solutions in place that can help to track interactions with citizens, improve service delivery and manage the interaction and processes more efficiently. Although there are different technology approaches to handling customers, many government departments are choosing customer relationship management (CRM) applications as a core element in the systems they are putting in place to digitise interactions with citizens.
The rise in adoption of CRM, sometimes referred to Citizen Relationship Management in a government context, is in its relatively early stages in the region, but it is rising steadily.
“There is growing interest in the region for CRM, as we have witnessed numerous inquiries and CRM projects becoming priority and budgeted for. Many governments in the region are continuously looking to adopt technologies that can enhance service delivery, with quick deployment and an efficient roll-out. They are looking at solutions that have high usage and efficiency,” commented Karim Talhouk, Microsoft Business Solutions lead – Microsoft Gulf.
Keith Fenner, senior vice president Sales – Sage ERP Africa and head of Sage ME added: “With an increasing demand for timely customer service, regional government departments are at the forefront of adopting on-demand CRM solutions in order to effectively manage the volume of customer requests and applications. The traditional CRM is being revamped into an integrated online system, with an increasing presence in online self-help centres.”
Although some government organisations may have deployed the same CRM solutions as enterprise organisations, there are fundamental differences in the requirements and approach of the two sectors, which can make a big difference to the solution required. Haritha Ramachandran, industry manager, Information & Communication Technologies, Frost & Sullivan, explained: “CRM as a tool is used by governments and corporate organisations based on the same ideology — you can reach out to your customers better, you want to understand what they need, what additional services you can offer them — but the fundamental difference between the government CRM and those of the corporate is not so much from the software perspective, but from the perspective of the fact that government CRMs are not sales driven, but they are built from the perspective of increasing customer engagement, as well as increasing efficiency as far as government’s service to the customer.”
The different rationale for deploying CRM means there are different aims for government CRM, Ramachandran said. Governments need to provide equal service to all, rather than focusing on the most high-value clientele. Governments also need to offer as many channels of contact as possible, to be able to reach the largest number of citizens. Governments are also more likely to have to deal with legacy systems, and to have to account for stringent audit trails and different levels of security across different systems, which can seriously hamper how interoperable a CRM system can be, potentially increasing the expense of any deployment.
To account for these factors most of the major business application vendors have now developed dedicated solutions for government CRM, with a very wide range of different features available. Multi-channel, two-way communication over web, email, voice, live chat, social media and so on is becoming the norm.
“Due to the nature of its constituency, to be effective government must offer channels that have universal reach and affordability. Public sector CRM systems typically offer and accommodate multi-channel communication,” said Fenner.
Rami Khoury, regional manager, Public Sector Middle East, Infor said that Infor CRM can fill multiple functions for government, including non-emergency request, service requests, grant management, constituent management, health benefit services management, and other case management. It’s solutions features include tracking an open item from receipt to closing and the activities in-between by enabling alerts on new or existing activities for staff members; scheduling of activities to complete by staff; and providing alerts to the citizen, grantee, or requestor on the status of the action.
For Microsoft’s government CRM solutions, Talhouk said new features include marketing services, event management, managing campaigns, automating all type of processes, mobility, social listener, analysing market sentiments, citizen services, eServices, call centre support and integration among all government entities.