Government Case Management | Governments Make the Case
As the popularity of Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems continue to grow in state, local and federal governments, and as the successes are increasingly trumpeted, Administrators and Executives are looking at which service modules they should include within a new CRM purchase or addition to existing systems. While the private sector has for many years had great success with modules such as sales force automation (SFA) and marketing, more recently CRM vendors have successfully retooled or appended their software suites to include capabilities that are designed for government activities.
Looking away from private industry’s preferences for contact management, sale opportunity management and marketing campaign management, the three most common aspects of government CRM initiatives have been 311 call centers for non-emergencies, billing activities, and case management. These modules are often bundled into a package termed Citizen Support Software (or Citizen Request Management or Citizen Service) and are often a module found as part of a broader CRM software suite. Case management software is generally used by call centers, help desks and constituent support departments in order to manage and automate front-office activities like citizen requests, incidents or case management.
Commercial Solutions in Case Management
As governments have become more familiar with CRM software systems, one area that has proven very popular has been electronic case management systems. These systems give agencies the ability to eliminate paper-based processes through electronic creation and routing of cases and associated documentation to all officials or team members who may contribute or add value to the case. Case management is one CRM feature that is as clearly geared to government as it is to the private sector. It not only consolidates past and ongoing case records, but it adds entitlement and contracting rules as well as workflow and business process automation to ensure that partners and constituents get what they are seeking and staff systemically manage the case from creation to closure. Important features in case management CRM include automated routing and workflow, embedded eligibility engines, assignment based on skills or workloads, esscalation based on predetermined thresholds and the ability to easily integrate to existing data management systems.
Fortunately, these capabilities are found in the leading commercially available CRM sofware offerings from manufacturers such as Oracle, Deltek and Aplicor. Despite the existence of proven software suites, some agencies attempt to either develop the functions internally or buy packages from specialized vendors who provide solutions requiring large and unnecessary amounts of time and effort to develop customized code that must be maintained over time. Both of these paths seem misguided given that there are commercial off the shelf (COTS) CRM software systems designed for government use and that deliver proven architectures, comprehensive functionality and a wealth of lessons-learned from hundreds of previous installations. These commerical systems and their benefits permit government agencies to spend less time building, implementing and maintaining software and more time focusing on mission-oriented priorities.
Not Just for Social Welfare Agencies
Notable case management successes in government are not hard to find. In one convincing example, the City of Chicago in 1999 began consolidation of 150 city government phone numbers into a 311 call center staffed by 55 service representatives, which today handles over 4 million non-emergency calls annually. While the initial goal was to consolidate phone numbers and relieve some volume from the 911 center, the city soon realized that it had created an enterprise-wide, work-order management system to handle many diverse types of cases.
Of course, government executives must evaluate technologies that compete with CRM for citizen services such as self-service web sites. For governments like Chicago, CRM was a better fit because many constituents needing city services required case management. These constituents included the poor, disabled, elderly and illiterate who have impaired access or understanding of the internet. But in the latest twist in the information technology’s success, CRM and its case management functions are being embraced by agencies well beyond social welfare. Even homeland security agencies are joining their health and human services government colleagues as users of CRM case management. No matter the agency, government staff usually (manually) perform elements of case management. And as case management is, at its essence, a customer service exercise, it requires appropriate tracking and handling to be consistently and predictably successful.
In another example of government success, the benefits of adopting CRM case management became convincingly clear. Due to a struggling state economy, recently a Midwestern state unemployment agency faced a dramatic increase in unemployment claims, while it also dealt with a 5% staff cut. The agency was overwrought with calls and paperwork while no set processes were in place for case management, workflow, or activity tracking. Case officials were unable to access constituent data in a timely manner, and paperwork was usually stored in multiple locations. As a result, the agency faced morale issues and a failing customer perception.
By adopting a CRM case management module with a systems integration process, the agency was able to execute a successful solution in a short time. Since its inception, the use of the case management software system along with the effective change surrounding the agency’s business processes delivered a 90% increase in the number of cases agents were able to handle and a 20% decrease in the processing cost of each case. In going with an proven CRM product, the agency was able to get an effective case management solution in place quickly while improving the effectiveness, efficiency and morale of staff. According to Chuck Schaeffer of Aplicor, “Irrespective of the agency, we generally include the Citizen Request Management software module at some level in our citizen services packages, not only because it is what the client wants, but also because its what makes the most sense for their customers—the constituents.” As for the opportunity to reap benefits from adopting case management in government citizen services, clearly its “case closed!”