Study: Government CRM improving, but more must be done

Government executives are increasingly comfortable with the concept of viewing their constituents as customers, and employing techniques typically seen in the private sector to improve customer service.

However, those executives realize a lot of work remains before they are able to offer superior customer service, according to a study released July 1 by Accenture Ltd.

The study, "Customer Relationship Management in Government: Bridging the Gaps," is based on interviews with more than 140 government agency executives in 15 countries in North America, Europe and Asia. Accenture is a management consulting and technology services company headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Improving customer service ranks above cost reduction as an imperative driving development of agencies' service delivery initiatives, according to the study.

But more than 90 percent of the executives surveyed said their agencies do not yet deliver "superior service." Just 28 percent said their agencies are effective today at delivering services through the channels their customers prefer.

The study found that the most common priority among agencies is to develop online transactions via portals, but traditional communication channels, such as the telephone, still dominate interactions with customers, even though a top objective is providing multichannel access.

Only 50 percent of agencies use more than two channels extensively, and only one-third have a contact center facility that manages interactions over multiple channels, including telephone, fax, the Internet and e-mail. Only 40 percent of executives said they are efficient in resolving customer requests.

The executives said their biggest challenges are balancing competing budget priorities, information integration difficulties and lack of experience in managing change programs.

But agencies are making progress, the study found, by seeking customer input through surveys, focus groups, committees and other panels, and also consulting agency employees. Executives also realize the importance of marketing their communications channels and services so that greater numbers of customers will use them.

"Governments must ? better understand the wants and needs of their customers ? the citizens and businesses they serve ? and modify their processes to accommodate them. Fortunately, a growing number of governments are taking a step in the right direction by involving their customers in the creation of new services," said Steve Rohleder, group chief executive of Accenture's Government Operating Group."

Kadence UK Ltd. conducted telephone interviews for Accenture with 143 senior executives in central government agencies that provide welfare, immigration, revenue, licensing and employment services to citizens. The interviews were conducted between December 2002 and March 2003 with executives from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain the United Kingdom and the United States.

Accenture employs more than 75,000 people in 47 countries. The firm had revenue of $11.6 billion for its fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2002.

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