Towards Better Interaction of Government with Citizen

Article by Pierre Malta published on The Times of Malta

Over the last decade, driven by ever increasing competitive intensity, companies began to look to how technology could be applied to a new area of focus: driving more sales, increasing demand for their products and services and retaining customers in the era of ever diminishing customer loyalty.

As a result, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems were born. Consisting of three core modules of functionality covering Sales, Marketing and Service Management, these systems were designed to directly address these issues.

Like all information technology, CRM has been undergoing substantial metamorphosis and today embraces technologies such as social media and marketing automation. It remains central to many businesses’ core operations, to the extent that for many companies the mantra is “If it ain’t in CRM, then it does not exist” – referring to the absence of information about business opportunities not captured in CRM, not being considered as part of the business.

Over the last few years, the “C” in CRM has evolved into an “X”, with CRM technology creeping across the border in the public sector.

Though government, unlike private enterprise is not driven by profit, the introduction of XRM is being driven by a different set of forces, such as:

a)      Growing citizen expectations

b)      Increasing service standards being imposed by consumer organisations and political bodies such as the EU

c)       A desire to attract private investment, either in the form of foreign direct investment (FDI) or indeed as public/private partnerships (PPP)

Today governments are themselves realising that they need to be ‘competitive’ when gauged against other countries in terms of creating a ‘business friendly’ environment to attract FDI and PPP investment. This awareness has permeated all levels of government, with the result that regional, municipal, local as well as national governments have been turning to so-called ‘eGovernment’ initiatives.

Such initiatives are laudable and indeed many governments, including our own, have enjoyed success and recognition as a result.

However, eGovernment has been quite successful in what one could term as ‘vertical services’, i.e. services rendered by a single government department. ‘Horizontal’ services requiring processes across multiple government departments have been more difficult to achieve. This lack of horizontal integration has imposed limitations on the quality of service that is achievable with the current technology.

Some years ago, a number of governments started to look at using CRM to address these same issues. The ‘C’ remained a ‘C’ – but ‘Customer’ became ‘Citizen’ and in some cases the ‘C’ became a ‘B’ (for business).

A leader in this area was the UK government which early on recognised the potential. Today CRM permeates all level of government in the UK. More recently some interesting examples were the proposal by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, to use CRM for a one-stop-shop service for businesses wanting to set up in London.

Although the use of CRM in the public sector in Malta is still relatively low, there have been a few examples whereby the use of CRM has led to tangible benefits. One significant example is Malta Enterprise, which today uses CRM to drive its own version of a one-stop-shop for business, the Business First service.

Government has an opportunity to study this example and make strategic use of CRM to address its cross-departmental service issues. This would provide the pillar that will enable the next generation of eGovernment services. A few examples of how CRM could be used in government would be:

a)      Using marketing automation tools to issue intelligently targeted communications to citizens

b)      Applying its powerful case management facilities to track all citizen touch-points between a government department and the citizen

c)       Leveraging the existing data inside government to aggregate data and deliver the horizontal services through automated workflows, which can be changed rapidly without taking months to change – thus reducing the need for citizens to interact with multiple departments to get something done

The opportunities are enormous and too many to be defined here. However government planners would do well to actively consider how CRM technologies and approaches can be used to improve citizen service quality and also ultimately save government money by avoiding complex and expensive development of integration software.