From 2004 to Now-Wow,What a Difference - Customer Relationship Management

In October 2002, the then Office of Management and Budget’s associate director of information and e-government czar, Mark Forman, wrote an article for Washington Technology magazine that had a profound effect on the thinking of government institutions. He called for a federal CRM program. “We need industry to be a catalyst, ” Forman said. “As consumers, citizens have become accustomed to high levels of service that, in the past, government hasn’t been able to provide. The president has made it clear that the federal government has to become more focused on better serving its citizens.”

There was an influx of private sector companies into public sector CRM after Forman’s declaration. A substantial number of government institutions such as the General Services Administration (GSA), the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and others brought in consulting companies such as Accenture, SAIC, and Bearing Point; CRM technology companies like Siebel (now Oracle), Oracle, and SAP; and on the SaaS side, RightNow, to improve the transactional and operational capabilities of government agencies. The programs in the aforementioned federal agencies were highly successful at the time. In the case of DLA and USPS, they continue to be successful.

By 2005, there had been some noticeable successes and “bring in the private sector to advise us” became a mantra for the public sector. This mantra continues to be chanted to this day but it’s starting to lose its “Ohm.” Flash forward to mid-2008.

I’m at the Center for American Progress (CAP), an organization that provides policy direction and initiatives to movements and institutions, primarily progressive ones. The head of CAP, John Podesta, was not only President Clinton’s chief of staff, but ran the Obama transition team. I’m on a panel with a number of technology experts representing various both Democratic and Republican political leaders. For example, Justin Hamilton, the deputy chief of staff of George Miller, one of the smartest young people I’ve met in a while. There were members of the staff of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid, among others. We were speaking to roughly 70 advocacy organization reps on how to effect constituency engagement utilizing social media tools. One of the tech staffers said, “We need to bring the private sector in to help us. They’re five years ahead of us.”

I jumped in and said, “No! That’s wrong. That’s a mantra that has outlived its usefulness. The change that’s been occurring is social. It’s not led by business. They’ve been caught as flatfooted as you by the demands of their customers who are also your constituents. They know what you know and you could help them as well as or more than they can help you.”

Why did I say that? Because there is a new constituent who’s nothing like the constituent of even four years ago. Isn’t that a familiar refrain throughout this book?

The New Constituent
The new constituent, 2009 version, is not the constituent of 2004. As we saw through the Barack Obama and Ron Paul campaigns particularly, but interspersed throughout all the primary candidates’ campaigns, there has been an incredible transformation of demand—the constituents no longer want just institutional efficiencies that provide them with a service level that works, they are looking to engage in the way that they want, using the means they want, and at the time they want, very much like the commercial sector customers. Do you know why constituents and customers are making similar demands of the institutions they are involving in their respective lives?

It’s because it’s we’re not talking about two different groups of people! The constituent and the customer are the same person. This is an individual with an expectation of performance and sensitivity by all institutions—whatever and wherever they are. In a commercial environment, that individual acts as a customer in how he or she relates to a business. In an environment dominated by government organizations, this individual acts as a citizen or as part of a constituent agency. The person who spent money on that Starbucks coffee before they visited the Environmental Protection Agency local office to get some issues around hazardous materials dumping taken care of is both the customer and constituent.

Meritalk, an online community of government technology specialists, released a study in mid-2008 that queried 2, 000 Gen Yers—in this case born between 1977 and 1990, so the youngest was 18. They found that 88 percent of the respondents would get their news online in the next 12 months, 85 percent wanted the next president (the one who turned out to be President Obama) to reach out online to the public at least once a month, and 74 percent wanted more information online on government programs and spending.

The relationship between the government and its constituents is changing because the relationship among peers is changing and how we communicate and the tools available to us to communicate are changing. The Meritalk survey tells you that the level of demand and expectation of the very people who have been responsible for the movement that made Barack Obama the name he is are demanding a new way of dealing with that change which involves every institution they interact with. This is where Social CRM does come into the public sector.

Because of the way that the change has affected the United States and much of the world, this chapter takes on a deep significance for the entire book. To make it whole, we’re going to be doing a few things. First, we’ll look at multiple government agencies, because all facets of government have been profoundly affected and the new models outlined in previous Chapter are particularly appropriate. Second, you’re going to meet experts—four to be exact. In alphabetical order:

  • Frank DiGiammarino, a leading thinker in the realm of using Social CRM for government agencies

  • Julie Germany, a rising young star in the public sector CRM pantheon because of her commitment to public discourse and constituent engagement

  • Bob Greenberg, my own wonderful brother, who by the sheer luck of it all is also one of the leading experts in the impact of social tools on government, especially in high-security situations

  • Alan Rosenblatt, an established thought-leader and writer who will outline how social technologies are affecting political campaigns

Third, you’ll hear several stories about a political campaign, and the role that the citizenry and government employees are playing in the transformation of government to a true Social CRM perspective. We’ll then head around the globe to see how Singapore made constituent engagement a national imperative over the past several years. Finally, I’ll ship you off to an appendix in this book written by my brother, Bob Greenberg, with a discussion of Virtual Alabama and its outgrowth, Virtual USA, and a look at the New Zealand Police Department.

This is exciting stuff, with the potential to be inspiring. At a minimum, there are lessons to be learned by your business—or your agency—or your campaign. So learn away.

Constituent, Not Citizen, Relationship Management
This may be the only time you ever hear me say this, but this is where the meaning of the acronym CRM is actually important. You may be wondering, though I doubt it, why I didn’t say “citizen relationship management” here. I say instead “constituent relationship management.” If you don’t care, skip ahead. If you are at least curious, listen up.

There is a lot more complexity to the public sector than just its relationship to the citizenry. The citizenry-agency relationship is the most important one for the reasons stated above. The purpose of government agencies is to serve the citizens of the nation they represent. But to do that there is a complex chain of relationships that are, in theory, designed to serve that ultimate citizen-to-institution interaction.

For example, the General Services Administration (GSA) is defined by Wikipedia as:
an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1949 to help manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies. The GSA supplies products and communications for U.S. government offices, provides transportation and office space to federal employees, and develops government-wide cost-minimizing policies, among other management tasks.

The GSA’s constituents are both the citizens who directly contact the GSA and the various federal agencies they support. Just limiting their strategy to the citizenry would be a serious error. Luckily they don’t. The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) exists to define the creation and execution of special initiatives on innovative approaches to government management challenges. They don’t deal with the citizens directly. As a result of their interagency efforts, they created a collaborative library of federal government Web 2.0 initiatives and case studies for all government institutions to access. This is not for directly interacting with citizens.

You could characterize the GSA and NAPA efforts as G2G, not G2C.
Perry Keating, a long-time CRM industry veteran and public sector expert, and currently managing director for Global Public Sector at Avaya, has this to say about constituent versus citizen:

Public sector has some unique aspects as it relates to CRM because it must deal with so many different Cs. In addition to the traditional customer or consumer there is also the many different constituents that come into play (voters, media, specific government agency, lawmakers, etc.). If we just focus on the different constituents, what becomes interesting is that each wants very different things from their relationship with the public sector.

  • Some want information about the individual public sector servant (how did you vote on certain issues).

  • Some want information about the public sector function itself (where is the nearest IRS office to my house).

  • While others want to be able to actually perform a transaction with that public sector function (renew my license plate decals or file my taxes).

Because of this need to serve so many Cs in so many ways, in some cases public sector has done more with CRM and the Internet than many of their commercial counterparts.

  • If you look at many commercial company websites there are some basic functions: the leadership of the company and its locations, some information about its product or services, and in some cases the ability to acquire some of its product or services.

  • If you look at many public sector websites, there is a vast array of information about the leadership and that agency’s functions as well as connections to a tremendous amount of information about that agency’s functions and the ability to perform virtually any transaction or inquiry with that particular public sector entity.

If we look at the latest social networking tools (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) again public sector is pushing the use of this technology faster than its commercial counterparts.

  • In some commercial companies the use of these social networking tools is limited or nonexistent. In fact, in some cases employees are prohibited from using such tools.
  • In the public sector, many are viewing this as another effective set of tools to interact with the many Cs.

Because of the complex matrix of government agency to government agency to citizen at federal, state, and local levels, and between branches of government too, calling CRM citizen relationship management is severely limiting. So do me a favor, and don’t. Constituent relationship management works.

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