While government executives say delivering customer service is a top priority, a recent study completed by Accenture Inc. found they are also in overwhelming agreement that service levels are not up to snuff.

The study entitled Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in Government: Bridging the Gaps has been based on interviews conducted with over 140 government executives from 15 countries between December 2002 and March 2003.

According to the study, CRM in the government sector is still considered emerging, but government agencies are embracing the notion that the people and organizations they are servicing are customers, not citizens or constituents.

Also, while government organizations have embraced the fundamentals of CRM, they are experiencing difficulty in building on the basics of the technology -- customer offerings, customer interactions, organization performance and developing customer insights. In fact, the study found that a vast majority of government organizations have mistakenly focused on the technological aspects of what CRM offers and are "struggling to reap the expected benefits" CRM can provide in improving customer services.

Although a vast majority -- 92 percent of government executive respondents -- said it was "important or very important" to deliver exemplary services, 90 percent of those who participated in the study conceded their agencies didn't meet or deliver "superior" services.

When it comes to managing customer interaction, two-thirds of executives reported using call centres and 81 percent said they predicted having a call centre in place in the next three years. However, only 32 percent of the executives said they currently used an integrated e-mail, Internet, fax and telephone approach when dealing with customers.

Approximately 54 percent said their agencies do involve customers in the development of customer services, yet only one-third of the executives were satisfied with the effectiveness of delivering tailored customer services. Other notable findings included:

- fewer than 40 percent of respondents said their agencies resolve customer questions efficiently; - only one-fourth of respondents said their agencies track customer requests effectively; - and fewer than 22 percent said their agencies follow up with citizens and businesses to monitor their satisfaction with the services provided.