Call centers, user satisfaction are crucial to e-gov success, experts say

Call centers, user satisfaction are crucial to e-gov success, experts say

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

As agencies boost electronic-government efforts, they are increasingly recognizing the importance of customer satisfaction.

Many are finding that improving call centers is key, experts said. Agencies should treat all requests the same, whether they come via bricks and mortar, telephone or online, said experts at the recent Government Information Technology Executive Council's Information Process Interagency Conference in Orlando, Fla.

'Call center management is critical to an e-government strategy,' said Susan Pentecost, a partner in the management consulting division of PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. of New York.

'There are lot of ways to reach you,' she said, and many organizations are discovering that many people use the Web and e-mail rather than the telephone.

Kathy French, manager of the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Response Center, said the commission found the number of comments from consumers has skyrocketed after it let people file complaints online and opened a toll-free telephone number.

This year, the commission estimates it will receive 331,000 comments from consumers, she said.

Citizens are pushing agencies to be more efficient, Pentecost said. They get around-the-clock response in the private sector, which is creating an expectation that the government will provide comparable service, she said.

Great expectations

'The demand is coming on faster than anybody expected,' said Timothy L. Cannon, director of customer resource management solutions for Oracle Corp. People have experience with self-service, and they want to be able to do it with government services as well, he said.

Dell Computer Corp. found that many of its technical support questions can be answered online, said Rosendo 'Ro' Parra, senior vice president of Dell's American public and international group. That freed up technical support for the more difficult issues, he said.

Proper management of these inquiries can also result in significant cost savings. Rosendo said each call to Dell's technical support line costs the company $10 to $20. Letting customers get answers online, especially for issues such as order status, is more efficient, he said.

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