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Enhancing Relationships by Aligning Your Technology Solutions


by Spencer Stern, Founder, Stern Consulting

For some time, the increase in two-way communications has conditioned Americans to expect increased responsiveness to their questions and concerns; government must keep pace with this situation.

Within the past 24 months there has been an unprecedented increase in the functionality offered by Citizen Relationship Management (CRM) systems. CRM software vendors and their partners have been promoting digital citizen engagement to offer citizens a modern, interactive experience. These advances have included the following functionality:

  • The ability of government organizations to find out and collect more information on their citizens (e.g., building a rich citizen profile). Sample types of information include how they want to be communicated with—phone, email, mobile, social media, etc.
    • The citizen profile could contain information about their preferences—are there affinity groups that they like to be engaged with, such as, community biking or recycling initiatives.
    • The profile could also contain information about people in their household, for example, finding out their primary language, so when they are contacting the municipality, they are going to be getting somebody that speaks their language.
    • Another example is determining if there are senior citizens or disabled people living in a residence so the municipality can provide relevant information to them about programs.
  • The more information that is collected on citizens, the more information that can be provided to them proactively to engage them and meet their needs.
  • Customer service agents should be able to navigate seamlessly across all modes of interaction in supporting citizens. This will allow citizens to enter a request via one communication channel such as the phone and then allow them to receive updates through another channel such as Twitter or their mobile device.
  • Tools to enhance and personalize self-service interactions and transactions, such as automated personalized interactive questionnaires, natural language search, guided assistance to help locate relevant content, email deflection, and proactive chat.

What Should Municipalities Expect?

Moving forward, municipalities should expect their CRM platform to deliver the following:

  • Identify major themes, trends and volume of citizen sentiment emerging through social media and then be responsive in return.
  • Facilitate citizens’ ability to interact and collaborate through on-line communities, moderated by municipal representatives.
  • Capture citizen concerns and sentiment through targeted, structured surveys.
  • Provide auto-generated, pre-filled email templates that require minimal agent input.

The Integration of Social Media Monitoring Tools

CRM systems are including powerful social media listening and monitoring tools which can be incorporated within their platforms that can enable municipalities to participate, learn, and utilize information gleaned from social channels. By harnessing this information, municipalities can then deliver content to targeted populations and better anticipate citizen needs. This tool is designed to allow cities not to control these social conversations, but rather to participate and understand.  Most importantly, social monitoring and listening tools detect and reveal larger trends related to the municipality’s departments, and give them the ability to drill into the message detail to see what’s driving that trend.

Single Sign-on to a Citizen Portal

The more a municipality can provide a personalized experience for citizens while respecting their privacy preferences and securing their personal information, the more they can enjoy a productive on-line relationship with their citizens. Below are some key components that new CRM applications should be able to deliver to enhance the municipality’s on-line presence:

  • Ability to sign into the municipality’s portal securely and maintain account and personal preferences easily
  • A single portal and one account which would provide citizens access to interactions and functions across all departments, with the CRM system acting as the hub
  • Within their account preferences, citizens should be able to change their opt-in and opt-out preferences globally, as well as on an agency-specific basis, i.e., citizens determine which channels they tune into
  • Wherever citizens have “opened the door” to interaction with a given department, any on-line transactions or forms should auto-populate with citizen contact information
  • A citizen’s on-line account should provide easy self-service access to a history of their on-line requests, applications and transactions
  • Citizen data should be protected with the highest levels of standards-based security and encryption

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The most innovative technology that contact centers will soon be experimenting with is AI functionality. Municipalities such as New York City and Los Angeles are looking into using AI devices such as IBM’s Watson and Amazon’s Alexa and Echo to have citizens communicate with to get answers, to get services processed, etc., In these instances, they will not be even interacting with a human. Salesforce.com is building their Einstein project which features AI functionality.

Internet of Things

Another area where CRM is spurning innovative ideas is through Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Municipalities deploying IoT technologies can, for example, proactively communicate to a department to change a traffic light before it goes out, or to suggest a repair to a water main prior to it leaking. In addition, sensors can be utilized to adjust street lights based on the time of day and weather. Municipalities should inquire how their CRM vendor is integrating IoT into their CRM road map.

Knowledge Management

Since a majority of the inquiries that a municipality processes are information only, CRM systems must have robust Knowledge Management (KM) features. Some CRM firms are testing and/or deployed the following advanced KM components:

  • Guided knowledge – Context driven knowledge coupled with troubleshooting guides for self-service support
  • Peer authoring and collaboration – Leveraging the community to develop and/or enhance knowledge articles
  • Smart/Virtual assistant – Self-guided, user-driven support
  • User Self-Service – Tile-oriented support using icons/widgets to drive users to the correct content on their initial attempt
  • Consistent, integrated knowledge across channels – Ensuring that the identical municipal information exists across all channels
  • Social Self-Service – Capturing user-driven content within the social channels and disseminating it to other channels
  • Analytics – Determining the usage of knowledge articles, effectiveness in meeting the citizen’s needs, and article clarity.

Summary

CRM systems should focus on how municipalities can better engage their citizens. Municipalities should work with their software firm and service provider to start small and not try to bite off more than the municipality can chew regarding citizen engagement. In addition, identify a specific department(s) to act as a test bed to utilize specific tools. For example, some organizations want to get on social media quickly and they may want to launch multiple channels simultaneously such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest. That may not the best approach. Organizations should start small, be incremental, and build on their successes.

Another critical success factor with deploying innovative technology is to ensure executive mindshare. Personnel, such as the mayor, CIO, or influential department head, that have an enterprise-wide, executive-level view of the organization, should be kept informed and act as advocates. Securing their support to be a continuous champion of the project will help the initiative move forward.

In summary, the new CRM platform should deliver to citizens the following:

  1. Enriched Citizen Profile
  • Deliver customized services and obtain a deeper understanding of your citizen's preferences
  • Unlock expertise across teams, share best practices, and resolve issues quicker and more efficiently
  • Coach, train, and empower agent behavior and performance
  • Make better, more informed, real-time decisions using actionable, easy to understand data
  • Reduce citizen and agent effort with support from one platform
  1. Collaboration in Context
  1. Performance Management
  1. Real-Time Analytics
  1. Multi-Channel Approach

About Stern Consulting

Our mission is to assist public sector agencies in aligning their technology solutions with their business and operational needs. Stern Consulting specializes developing and implementing digital citizen engagement strategies, customer service centers, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies and software solutions. We identify and support the deployment of innovative approaches for governments to connect with their citizens. Spencer Stern can be reached at 773.965.1650, spencer@sternconsultinginc.com, www.sternconsultinginc.com.

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Jurisdictions

Stern Consulting Inc.; Evanston, IL