Manukau journeys on with CRM

Implementing a CRM system is "part of a longer journey" for Manukau City Council, says the man in charge of the project, Glenn Teal.

Implementing a CRM system is “part of a longer journey” for Manukau City Council, says the man in charge of the project, Glenn Teal.

Viewing it as an end in itself, rather than as a means to an end, is what has caused many implementations to fail to live up to expectations, he says.

“One idea is that many organisations have installed it believing it’s the answer to doing customer management.”

Teal sees CRM as a tool to help in that process, not as the whole process.

Manukau City’s CRM journey began in 2001, when it opted for a PeopleSoft system; it wanted an “integrated, top-shelf global product” that would be around for years to come.

It is two-thirds of the way through the implementation, which encompasses financials, human resources and specific council functions such as billing, water and land issues, the latter provided by vendor Hansen in partnership with PeopleSoft.

Teal, whose title is citizen and customer services portfolio manager, says the PeopleSoft-Hansen bid won out from a short-list that included PeopleSoft, Oracle and Hansen (with SAP a finalist on the longer list).

A separate tender was held for implementation. The winning PeopleSoft-Hansen-SalesTech bid made it because it was the best fit with the council’s own staff, who make up 50% of the integration team.

“We didn’t assume the implementation vendor would be the same as the software vendor.”

A total of 60 people were working on the implementation until December. The council chose to include its own staff in the process for cost reasons and to retain knowledge, Teal says.

The council is one of the very few public sector organisations in New Zealand using a CRM package, he says.

The council’s deployment is so rare that it has led to an invitation for Teal to speak about its use of PeopleSoft’s 8.4 CRM module at this year’s North American Public Sector Finance Managers’ conference.

A CRM module, which recently went live, was part of the tender for the project because, Teal says, the council sought to use the functionality to improve its relationship with citizens.

“CRM is part of the journey towards lifting the game in terms of customer service. We established a call centre in 1999 and a customer centre in 2002.”

Co-ordinating customer front-end contact and having ready, structured answers to frequently asked customer questions were keys and from there, CRM will move things forward, Teal says.

“CRM has the ability to manage customer contact history very well and we have it at a level that can identify and manage customer calls about the library, rates, bills, drainage etc. It allows us to build a picture of the relationship citizens have with the council across the different communication channels, from phone, written to face-to-face.”

At the moment notes of such meetings are kept in paper form.

Traditionally, councils have managed their cities and towns in terms of property more than people, he says and CRM allows the council to take a more citizen-centric view.

Some observers initially questioned the sense of installing a variety of applications generally associated with private sector, sales-driven organisations.

“People say ‘why is a council getting into CRM?’ Commercial organisations use CRM to retain information about purchases customers have made, complaints made and to identify high spending customers. You can do a lot with CRM — you can slice and dice the customer base.”

It was that capability, applied differently, that the council sought to utilise.

“Councils are creatures of statute, as many of their functions are governed by various laws, ie building consents, resource management and dog control. Then there are the community-driven functions, such as providing swimming pools and libraries etc. That means councils are quite different to sales-driven organisations when it comes to CRM.

“I sometimes say we have 90 different businesses.”

The council is in its infancy with CRM, having deployed it to the call centre recently and aiming to go live at the customer centre in June. CRM will streamline the nature and consistency of its customer advice, Teal says, and the package is already being used by some council service delivery contractors.

“We’re sending service requests out electronically and confirming them electronically.”

The CRM functionality will be added in stages in the future and when the necessary security measures are added to the council’s computer network, citizens will be able to carry out many functions electronically.

“They’ll be able to look up and find out what day rubbish on their street is collected and get the same script as the call centre.”

He describes that stage as “going from CRM to CMR, customer-managed relationships, and in five years’ time, citizens will be able to manage their own relationship with the council”.

However, security and access issues still need to be worked on before that can happen.

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