When I started my career, community engagement was a contact sport. Most interactions were in- for information or called the City operator to report issues. What we lacked in volume we made up in individual attention and the ability to connect in person for a brief period. Of course, this was also when credit cards were checked using a pamphlet behind the counter and mobility meant using the phone in the kitchen with the long cord. With the dawn of the internet came the digital age, changing the way cities interact with their citizens. The new norm is keeping pace with the private sector in terms of on-demand service delivery and ubiquitous connection, which means thinking of City Hall as an online service. This presents a fundamental paradigm shift for local governments that have historically made stability and predictability core principles of their mission to serve the community.
To address this, many local governments employ a multi-faceted approach to community engagement, using a combination of social media platforms, websites, and mobile applications to tailor the experience to each user’s lifestyle. Dedicated Citizen Relationship Management (CRM) platforms have become a valued addition to this toolbox, providing a method for broad reach, targeted communication based on interests, and in some cases the ability to solicit feedback or receive service requests. Like their marketing-based cousins in the private sector, CRM platforms provide the ability for citizens to exchange information directly with their City government at their convenience. The key to making this successful is ensuring interactions are frictionless and meaningful for users.
The City of Rancho Cucamonga uses a combination of platforms to cover community relations, including a hosted e-mail newsletter service, in-house developed applications, and an upcoming revised public website that is service centric. Our award-winning citizen reporting application, RC2Go,is built on Esri GIS technology, leveraging our GIS team’s development expertise and existing enterprise licensing to create an online reporting tool that can be used as a mobile or web application. The platform was developed to expedite the reporting process and is integrated with GIS based work order management systems in our Public Works Department. As a result, many cases have been reported, assigned and resolved within the same business day. This also allows for seamless integration into our dashboarding, workflow automation and performance reporting tools also built with Esri technology.
The key to selecting the right system is determining in advance what specific outcomes are needed and what resources are available to support a platform once it’s been deployed. This means engaging stakeholders from across the organization’s landscape to discuss current and projected needs and to vet aspirational versus practical decisions. Once the scope of the platform is determined, cities have a range of options from fully hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) products that are relatively easy to maintain to completely custom-built systems that are suited for large-scale deployments. Choosing the right system factors in overall costs, scalability, and fit for the organization and community.