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Citizen Relationship Management

A Study of CRM in Government


Alexander Schellong

This study explores Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in government. Based on an interdisciplinary literature review and multiple-case study design, a model of Citizen Relationship Management (CiRM) is developed and discussed. The case studies explore the perceptions of CRM/CiRM by administrators, elected officials and consultants as well as its implementation and impact on the municipal level and in a multijurisdictional environment in the United States. Although the explorative part of the study focuses broadly on a theoretical conceptualization of CiRM, the immediate empirical referent of research are the 311 initiatives in the City of Baltimore, the City of Chicago, the City of New York and Miami-Dade County. Thus, the results help administrators and researchers to convey the idea and challenges of 311 well. The study shows that CRM is to a certain extent only partly able to make novel contributions to currently active reform movements in government. In addition, the study’s findings support the idea that CiRM provides the means to a different kind of public participation.


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1 Introduction 1


1 1 Introduction Government, and especially public administration, plays a key role in the lives of citi- zens. The economic stagnation faced by many democracies in the early 1980s and its association with overregulation, poor bureaucratic responsiveness and simultaneous erosion of trust, forced governments to rethink their models of governance for the first time in fifty years (Frederickson/Smith 2003: 214-215). All these elements resulted in a global push to reshape the formal and informal ties between government and society. One of the common objectives, therefore, was a more citizen-oriented government and public services. Subsequently, governments around the globe viewed the Internet as a powerful force that could increase their responsiveness to citizens or as a means to further empower the state (Fountain 2001a). Facing the effects of competition and globalization, the business world also recog- nized the importance of focusing on its customers instead of on transactions or their products. Thereafter, progressively more sophisticated consumers and advances in academic research made private businesses realize that customers were individuals with distinctive attributes and that customer relationships were an important type of organisational asset. In fact, customer relationships were seen as a potential source of competitive advantage in the 1990s (Porter 1985). The rise of the Internet further strengthened the role of the customer and opportunities for businesses to tap into cus- tomer resources such as labour, knowledge or social capital. However, in order to do this, organisations needed to move from narrow product-focused strategies towards customer-focused strategies. Moreover, enterprises had to...

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