Public Relations & Communications Manager, Cartersville, GA
Cartersville lacked a centralized place for its 20,000 residents to submit requests and relied on social media to communicate city news.
Residents who wanted to submit a code enforcement violation or submit a request to a city department would have to navigate the website to find the proper department contact. The website was hard to use and required multiple clicks to find department information.
If the resident wasn’t able to find the contact, or simply didn’t have the patience or time to search, they would often resort to calling the City Manager’s office. The process for managing these calls was imperfect, inefficient, and time-consuming, as residents would explain the issue to the City Manager’s Office - only to have to turn around and repeat the same info to the correct department once routed over. In addition to calling, residents would also email or visit the City Manager’s office in person to submit their requests. The system clearly wasn’t meeting the needs of the city’s residents and the resulting flow of phone calls and in-person visits led staff to juggle a lot on top of their day-to-day responsibilities.
“The website was hard to use and required multiple clicks to find department information.If the resident wasn’t able to find the contact, or simply didn’t have the patience or time to search, they would often resort to calling the City Manager’s office.”
With the difficulty presented by posting and accessing information on the website, the city primarily used Facebook to engage with residents. The city’s account had around 5,000 followers and was used to communicate everything from information about rec events to job postings. While this method worked somewhat better than the website, it left a lot to be desired in reaching the entire population of the city because not everyone was on social media.
Between the imperfect system for residents to access city services and the compromise of using social media to communicate city news and events, it was clear that Cartersville needed something new that could satisfy resident needs on both fronts. The City Manager wanted to adopt an app but wanted to make sure it would address all of the city’s needs and be intuitive for residents to use.
A new request system and a mobile app enabled the city to shorten service request response times & improve resident engagement
Before selecting a potential solution, the new Public Relations & Communications Manager, Annalee Penny, did internal research on what issues each department received the most calls about and gathered feedback on what residents were saying.
In just two months, Cartersville launched a new request system from GOGov that allowed residents to submit requests through a mobile app and to receive important updates and information about local events through smartphone notifications. The app is titled “My Cartersville” to match the strong love residents have for the city.
Penny made it a priority to make it fun and easy for Cartersville residents to get involved with the city through social media and the new app. She changed the city’s color palette to choices that are vibrant and changed the voice of the City from a solely informational one to one that was fun and exciting. By making the app an exciting place for residents to visit, the city has achieved over 2,200 smartphone downloads with a population of just over 20,000 residents. Residents already like using the app because its easy to use, but fun events like the weekly upload of a citizen-submitted photo as the app background help keep residents engaged.
The shift to submitting requests through the app decreased the number of phone calls to the City Manager’s office significantly, with 593 service requests coming in through the app since launch. Staff are happier because the app gives residents a pre-set list of requests and automatically routes it to the correct department so there’s more time spent fulfilling requests and less time on the phone transferring calls to other departments. Even better, residents feel like their problem or request is being prioritized because communication and updates about submissions come from the department head. The app offers an option for residents to fill out a survey once their ticket was closed out and the results astonished Penny.
“It blew me away how many people wrote back on the surveys”, said Penny. “A lot were saying the city addressed their problem quickly and that using the app made the process so simple. It was fun passing along that great feedback to the department directors to let them and their teams know their hard work is appreciated.”
The new system also allowed the city to keep residents informed of city developments and push urgent updates. Previously, the city could send updates using a system that pushed out information via an email or phone call, but residents couldn’t customize what notifications they received and the system was clunky. With GOGov, Cartersville can send push notifications to resident smartphones for everything from a railroad crossing being closed to a new job posting.
Cartersville got creative in advertising the new app to residents, with prompts to download on everything from flyers and on the back of drink coasters, to QR codes and digital billboards that advertised information about new Parks and Rec sports leagues and activities.