Presented by CivicPlus
The city tapped an integrated solution to enhance citizen experience and trust.
From filling potholes to providing resources and information around extreme weather events, constituents depend on their government to step up when problems arise. A simple and reliable form of communication is key to ensuring the public gets the information and services it needs. And when that communication is seamless, it bolsters satisfaction and trust in the government.
The problem, however, is that in today’s world, communication isn’t always flawless.
“It’s common for a city to not have the organization or processes in place to appropriately log and respond to resident requests,” says Elliot Olson, an implementation consultant at CivicPlus who specializes in SeeClickFix, a tool that helps local governments manage and improve relationships and communication with constituents.
Having worked in local government, Olson is all too aware of the ways requests or information can get bungled.
For instance, a person might want to get a streetlight or pothole fixed, so he or she calls a government agency — but the wrong department. The city employee might have the best intentions to pass on that message, but a million things could happen that keep it from getting where it needs to go.
“Constituents are left feeling ignored when in reality, the issue was not that the city didn’t care but that there’s all these hoops to jump through to ensure a request gets to the right place,” Olson says.
A few years ago, the case was no different for sunny Key West, Florida, a town that hosts millions of tourists annually and about 25,000 permanent residents. While Key West’s city government was committed to serving its constituents, it lacked the tools to respond quickly and effectively to 311 requests or other citizen needs.
“They didn’t have organized internal processes in place as far as responding to resident requests,” Olson says. “That’s when things fall through the cracks and that’s when constituents begin to get frustrated.”
But that wasn’t the only challenge Key West faced with communication. Florida state government recently passed legislation requiring all code enforcement requests to include contact information, meaning Key West had to find a way to properly document these requests and ensure none got lost in the shuffle.
Moreover, Florida is also often in the path of extreme weather events. With the threat of hurricanes that make landfall likely to rise in coming years, the government wanted to ensure it could efficiently communicate with residents and visitors.
“Key West was really diving in to tackle all of these issues at once,” Olson says.
To address all these challenges, CivicPlus stepped in as a technology partner to provide an integrated solution to equip the city with the tools to create positive civic experiences for Key West residents at every municipal touchpoint.
Upgrading Citizen Experience
The first solution was a new CivicEngage® website, which provided integrated functionality designed to fit the needs of local governments while also allowing for some flexibility and custom configurations. Importantly, it also had a modern, easily navigable interface.
“We wanted more online capabilities for applications and communications with the public,” said a city official. “Before CivicPlus, applications were only available on our website as PDF forms. So a key factor in a solution partner was the ability to convert them to digital forms and help us improve our [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance.”
The new website helped ensure Key West remained compliant while also improving constituent communications via the more user-friendly site design. Moreover, the CivicEngage Send functionality and NotifyMe® subscription tool, allowed the city to launch a community newsletter to get the word out about government initiatives and better gather citizen feedback.
To improve how Key West residents share ideas, feedback and requests with their civic leaders, the city implemented CivicPlus’ SeeClickFix 311 and citizen relationship management solution. Before the software addition, the city used a more time-intensive, manual process to track resident requests.
“The old model of government puts too much onus on the resident to properly communicate with their government, and that’s something that we can really solve for with technology,” Olson says. “Ensuring you call the right department so that your request gets into the right hands is not really a realistic amount of information for a resident to have.”
It wasn’t easy for the city staff, either, who had requests from various channels — website, email, phone call or text message — and had to forward it to the appropriate department, something that wasn’t always easy to determine.
SeeClickFix, which the city branded as Key West Connect, helped remedy the issue by implementing strong organizational channels and has to date resolved over 1,100 requests. It also helped with the proper collection of information for code enforcement requests.
SeeClickFix has clear workflows, so for example, if a resident reports a pothole, it’s automatically assigned to the correct person with a due date for completion, Olson says.
“And if the resident happens to accidentally misreport it, say it’s not a pothole but sidewalk damage that would be handled by a different department, the system ensures it doesn’t get lost in the cracks, but that the person who receives reminders until they reassign it to the correct person,” she adds.
Moreover, with better data collection, SeeClickFix empowered the city to better understand and improve operations.
“With SeeClickFix, Key West can look at a report card of operation, like how quickly they are acknowledging and closing requests, how many things are sitting overdue, etc.,” Olson says. “That really helps the city identify where the gaps are and get a better understanding of whether certain departments need training, additional staffing or resources to see them through a particularly busy period.”
Streamlining Communication with an Integrated Solution
A key aspect of Key West’s success in improving its engagement and communication with constituents is how it leverages CivicPlus’ full, integrated software stack. By tapping a single solution to streamline and organize all communication needs, the city has cut internal congestion and put its best foot forward with constituents when it comes to digital communications.
That digital success is more impactful than many may realize.
According to a 2021 survey report by Deloitte, a constituent’s digital experience with government organizations has a major impact on how they perceive that organization Those pleased with the experience view the government body in a trustworthy or more favorable light.
But the advantages of an integrated solution also came to a head in a very tangible way for the city when Tropical Storm Elsa touched down in Key West in July 2021. As the storm approached, the city relied on its fully integrated suite of capabilities to alert constituents and city employees about the changing situation.
City leaders tapped the CivicPlus emergency notification solution to notify employees and residents about office closings, posted notices to the website and temporarily replaced 311 categories with storm-related ones to give residents a simpler, streamlined way to report issues and repairs caused by Elsa.
“During Tropical Storm Elsa, Key West was equipped to use multiple lines of defense when it came to communication,” Olson says. “And the CivicPlus staff was all aware of what was going on and we were there to back them up, as well.”
Going forward, Olson is looking forward to continuing to support Key West as technology demands increase.
Residents have increasing demand for technology solutions for local government, she says. In their day-to-day activities, they are used to ordering something online and getting that delivered, often the next day, if not the same day. “People want government to be the same way,” Olson says. “So, as residents’ expectations go up, Key West is going to be able to meet those demands more easily than those who have not been equipped with a modern, streamlined solution and kind of avoid some of the pain of being behind the times.”
More importantly, however, the city will be able to continue serving its constituents effectively and engaging with them in a positive, constructive way.
“Having these integrated solutions, it's going to increase your resident communication, which, in turn, increases resident trust, and residents who trust their local governments are willing to participate and want to be involved,” Olson says. “That's what's going to create a resilient, strong, local community.”
Learn more about how an integrated solution from CivicPlus can take your city’s constituent experience to the next level.
This content is made possible by our sponsor CivicPlus. The editorial staff of Route Fifty was not involved in its preparation.