Panel spells out the ABCs of CRM

'Some people view us as not being in the customer-service business because we are not for profit,' said Nancy Johnson, executive director of the Defense Logistics Agency's Defense eBusiness Program Office.

'I think you can throw excellent technology at a bad business process all day and it won't succeed,' Johnson said at the recent FOSE trade show in Washington. 'Technology has never been the hard part of this.'

Customer relationship management has three components, said Richard Garner, a senior associate with Booz, Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va. The first component is contact management'handling customer accounts by telephone calls and e-mail, Garner said. The second is relationship management, or using customer information to make the procurement process smoother.

If a customer 'has to repeat the same story on different days, that's a problem,' Garner said.
The third component is knowledge management. People who spend time researching a long, complex question usually want to document the answer so others can use it, he said.

Garner said his customers have trouble making a good business case for a CRM project and selling it to senior management. The usual commercial justification is value per transaction, but most agencies don't follow that model, Garner said. Instead, proponents should stress that CRM will free up workers to do their core jobs.

What CRM is

Johnson said CRM and e-government are not synonymous. CRM focuses on building and strengthening relationships, he said, whereas e-government is about dealing less with telephones and paper.

Garner said he sees too many agencies jumping into technology acquisition without a clear idea of what they want to accomplish.

'You have to look at your process,' he said. 'There's a ton of vendors out there. The important thing is to understand where these vendors come from, because they will have strengths in that area. Find a consultant or go to an analyst'just get an objective source.'

Johnson said her agency doesn't want to seem that it's presenting a dozen different faces to a single customer.

'We have become acutely aware that we're not the only game in town,' she said.
Asked about incentives for employees to serve the public well, Johnson said DLA call centers have a customer service award program. Peers track each other and get rewarded for good performance.

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