American public sector organizations inhabit a volatile world. It feels like every day we are barraged by more news of derailed federal budgets, drained state pensions, and departments being furloughed. This isn’t just talking, according to PBS News, nearly half of all states face budget shortfalls.
For a handful of states, such as Alaska, Connecticut, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oregon, their budget deficits are substantial, lying around $1 billion. And with incoming cuts to federal spending, many of these states face disastrous budget cuts. States with looming budget shortfalls fear that cuts to their departments will lead to a drastic reduction or degradation of services.
How a Public Sector CRM Can Improve Performance and Save Money
For many states and public sector organizations, budget shortfalls will mean a substantial cutting back on services and expenses. But cost-cutting measures do not have to lead to a sacrifice in performance. For institutions that implement customer relationship management programs (CRM), an initial investment can actually lead to improved performance and substantial savings that increase with time.
Customer relationship management (CRM), is a systematic and technical approach to the management of a business or organization’s interactions with customers. CRM can include data analysis on customers, customer-oriented reporting and dashboards, or unified customer histories. In many cases, CRM can mean all of the above.
CRM is an established, if not essential business practice in the private sector. As businesses realize the incredible benefits that CRM brings, they are quick to implement and adapt it to their respective industries. Organizations within the public sector can also benefit from the business applications of CRM.
While the benefits of CRM solutions could fill a book, I’ll outline just three ways that CRM use aids public organizations navigate the volatile world of modern governance.
Enhanced Informational Organization
First, public sector CRM solutions greatly help with informational organization. Public institutions are notorious for their data overloaded bureaucracies, with information scattered across varying departments. Unfortunately, these departments often have limited communication with each other. If you’re nodding your head at this, you’ve probably seen firsthand how information can be isolated and siloed across different departments.
Customers who ask for information from one department may be directed into a labyrinth of different departments and bureaucracies. This lack of informational cohesion and transparency leads to a frustrating experience for both customers and employees.
In these cases, CRM can break through silos and make information available across an entire organization. When proper dashboards are implemented, CRM allows users to see customer data across departments. While filters can be set to limit access, customer data can be stored and easily accessed by any user throughout the organization. This is incredibly helpful for public institutions with several customer-facing departments, and whose customers easily run into the millions.
Constituents as Customers
Perhaps CRM’s most well-known and lucrative benefit is its improvement of customer service. By improving data organization, CRM allows all employees to provide an excellent level of customer service by giving all customer-facing employees the same access to customer records and information.
Ryan Green has helped countless clients combine informational organization with customer management. For him, CRM represents a valuable tool for managing relationships with any constituency.
“CRM is a powerful platform that allows public agencies to organize their data. People often think of CRM as a way to track sales and marketing, but with the offerings available today, it becomes a natural place to manage relationships with constituents, staff, and all of the resources they are responsible for. When designed correctly, CRM systems provide a powerful way to organize data that is important, reduce costs and boost revenue for agencies” – Ryan Green, CRM Technical Practice Lead, Affirma Consulting
This is essential for public institutions whose customers may have to meet several different faces and representatives of a single institution. Rather than starting fresh with a new face, each user will instead have access to the customer’s combined interaction history. CRM can also be used to capture and analyze customer trends, histories, and purchases. At the heart of this application is the ability to transform vast stores of customer data into insights that improve relationships, drive growth and improve efficiency.
Many public organizations have customer transactional data that rivals or even surpasses that of private corporations. Thus it is vital that the best customer management technologies are used.
We don’t usually think of constituents as customers, but the same technology that improves business to customer relations, can be used to help governance to constituent relationships.
Routine Task Automation
Time and cost management is one of the most pressing issues for public institutions facing budget shortfalls. Luckily, CRM can bring significant improvements in both time and cost management through task automation.
Public institutions and governments generate an enormous amount of forms, files, paperwork, and reports. These tasks all consume time, money, and effort both to generate and to consume. Implementing CRM automates these tasks, freeing up greater time and resources for employees, while also minimizing human error.
Actions such as mailing lists, notices, or other routine reports can be automated away from valuable operational time. Employees will then be able to concentrate their efforts on the most vital and critical operations needed.
Task automation will also bring tremendous savings, which cannot come too early for strained public institutions. Public sector organizations are under intense strain from shortfalls in budget but also increased scrutiny from their constituents. This pressure leads to public organizations being asked to perform at unrealistic levels while operating on fewer resources.
Teal Peterson, a customer engagement manager has seen first hand the benefits that CRM can bring to budget-sensitive public sector organizations.
“Because of the distinct pressure that it faces in budgeting and funding constraints, the public sector is uniquely positioned to benefit from the cost-cutting and performance improvement of CRM. An implementation of CRM can cement an organization’s commitment to excellence inefficiency” – Teal Peterson, Customer Engagement Manager, Affirma Consulting
The savings in time and money that come from CRM implementations can be reinvested by public organizations to further achieve their goals. For these organizations, CRM allows for greater operational success and a more efficient use of resources.
Growing Public Sector CRM
As the duties and responsibilities of the public sector grow in scope and complexity, it is vital that public organizations recruit the best technological systems and talent. Public organizations must use technological advances to bridge the gap that arises from sensitive or limited budgets. Under these circumstances, public organizations must operate at a high level of efficiency. Public sector CRM solutions can help them in that regard.
As Director of CRM, Sam Hopkins has seen the benefits of CRM through countless successful projects.
“CRM has provided tremendous opportunities for our clients in the public sector. It’s allowed them to use digital channels to strengthen relationships with constituents, deliver new services, and improve existing ones. With public finances under such a strain, CRM has also supported drastic cost reductions by consolidating siloed applications and IT infrastructure” – Sam Hopkins, Director of CRM, Affirma Consulting
CRM is a valuable and flexible tool that can be customized to fit the needs of any industry. I’ve outlined three major benefits that can come with CRM implementations, but there are dozens more. Whether it’s greater collaboration, or increased responsiveness, CRM can benefit public organizations in a variety of different ways.