More Bang For The Buck | Constituent Relationship Management
As a government manager, you have already revamped your web sites, squeezed your budgets, and streamlined operations where you could. Nevertheless, funding is getting tighter, constituent demands are increasing, and your IT (information technology) infrastructure is still largely parked in the 1990s. As a professional, you want your office to meet and exceed expectations but know that change in government is usually incremental and subject to limited resources. NOW WHAT?
A first place to look is at a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) System. While CRM technologies have been broadly used in the private sector for nearly two decades, both federal and local governments have just recently begun realizing the great benefits these information systems offer the public sector. In fact, the government share of the CRM software sector is at a healthy 6% in 2007 and is projected to grow by 5.5% annually. While there are many and varied reasons for this growth, a commonly cited benefit for public sector CRM software is that there are a lot of “bangs for the (limited government) bucks.”
CRM systems have matured, having been time-tested in business, and are now specifically tailored to government institutions. Among the many CRM firms out there, Oracle stands as a software giant that now counts public sector CRM as its largest vertical market line of business. Similarly, Aplicor has been a standout with its Government CRM system that has been purchased and tailored to dozens of state, local, federal and international government organizations.
The value propositions found in a CRM system tailored for a government office include:
- Improved Customer Service – As increased sales and revenues are not usually a measurable goal in government, satisfying our constituents is often the lens through which public sector offices are viewed. A typical CRM system, which includes both a managerial strategy as well as an IT component, is designed specifically to increase levels of service delivery.
- Boosting Efficiencies - Service improvements are facilitated by creating efficiencies in business processes, such as time on phones, processing payments, and reducing paperwork.
- Reduced Transaction Costs – Greater efficiencies also reduce transaction costs and cycle times.
- Improved Information Capture – CRM software user interfaces are designed to capture the information relevant to the work of your office and other government or business offices that you partner with in the performance of your mission.
- Information Integration – By sharing relevant data with your government partners, public-facing staff in all offices will know what other arms of the government are doing in regard to your constituents, thus providing better customer service and delivery through single-point access to information.
- Reduced IT Headaches – Many of the newer and more popular CRM services are web-based and hosted off-site from your office. That means no additional software, hardware or additional memory requirements.
But perhaps the biggest “Buck Bang” comes from the ability to put a fresh coat of paint on your public-facing and staff data interfaces. CRM software can put a contemporary face on those aging legacy systems that will unlikely be replaced in the near future. The CRM tools can also integrate existing databases and deliver useful information a manner designed by the customer. Having worked with so many government offices, Oracle and Aplicor have both found dozens of ways to deliver information and can be great resources for developing better ways to present data.
Another major benefit of adopting a CRM system is that in designing the tool, managers and staff are forced to review business processes, something generally harder to do in government offices than in the private sector. Several system integrators and CRM software manufacturers indicate that when working with government clients, though some resistance may be seen early in the process, inevitably the exercise facilitates often sought after organizational change, and creates efficiencies in the business processes. These benefits, of course, help create sustained cost savings and increases in staff morale.
Taken together, the myriad benefits that are derived from a CRM system are arguably the best investment that can be made with limited government funding. Better customer service, greater efficiencies, cost savings, increased morale, improved business processes, and a fresh coat of paint on legacy interfaces. If at all possible, its worth the exploration.