Customer relationship management within the local government : a case study of eThekwini Municipality.
The Batho Pele principles (enshrined in our Constitution) redefined the relations between the users of municipal goods and services and municipalities. It compels local municipalities to comply with certain requirements such as providing tools and mechanisms to encourage citizens to participate in its decision making processes as well as improving relations with its customers. eThekwini Municipality created two business units namely the Community Participation Unit and the Regional Centres Unit. The Community Participation Unit is responsible for mobilizing the local rural and urban communities to participate in local government elections. The Regional Centres Unit is responsible for improving relations between the users of municipal goods and services and the municipality by providing access to local government services at the doorstep of citizens, improving customer relationships, identifying and implementing initiatives to enable customers to interact with the municipality when they want to, where they want to and how they want to. Citizens and municipal customers are a captive market. Municipal goods and services in the main can only be sourced from the municipality. The perceptions of municipal customers towards the municipality were mostly negative. There were no precedents that could be learnt from and this was a paradigm shift from government to governance. eThekwini Municipality looked to private sector practices for models, philosophies and practices that could be useful for achieving change as well as compliance with legislation. Companies in the private sector have to compete for customers and whilst price may be a differentiating factor, it is not sustainable to compete on pricing alone. To remain competitive and survive, companies are dependent on strategies that provide them with a competitive edge such as CRM. CRM initially was used describe software that collected and analysed data on customers assisting companies to become agile in responding to their clients, to enable them to reward their loyal customers and to be able to predict and pre-empt changes in buying behavior and preferences of their customers. It evolved into a philosophy on customer service focused on providing customers with a satisfying experience in every interaction with the company. It is used to identify improvements in the business operating model to improve delivery to the customer and to the market. This study is based on a case study of the experiences of the eThekwini Municipality in implementing CRM initiatives and the impact on relations with municipal customers. The study is based on test sampling, review of documentation and interviews with senior management in eThekwini Municipality. The results of the study are discussed with recommendations.