The City of Palm Coast has launched a new, mobile-friendly app that makes it faster and easier to reach the city at any time, from virtually anywhere, either to lodge a complaint, a concern or an alert about something amiss, or to get information about garbage collection, drainage issues, building permits, construction around town, or parks and recreation activities.
It’s a more citizen-centered way to navigate the city’s sprawling web databases, information and customer-service operations, but also to be more engaged civically and have a direct stake in the city’s welfare. In the longer run, this sort of direct-engagement platform enables local governments to shift emphasis from human to web-based customer service, potentially saving money on personnel costs while generating the sort of analytical data that shows where residents’ real-time concerns are concentrated.
“It’s more efficient, and it’s saving money,” Palm Coast Customer Service Manager Cynthia Schweers told the city council last week. Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland compared it to Amazon’s way of tracking orders and packages. (Holland is employed at Coastal Cloud. The company is providing its services to the city free of charge.)
Right now the city gets 10,400 customer service calls a month, on average. But the city doesn’t always know if issues are resolved, or whether callers are even getting the right information by the time their “case” is closed. The new platform will change that, City Manager Matthew Morton said.
Washington, D.C., Denver and Chicago, among others, all have developed similar platforms. But Palm Coast is the first city in Florida to do so, using the services of locally-based high tech firm Coastal Cloud and the power of Salesforce, the leading customer engagement platform.
It is also, of course, a more immediate means of tattletaling on a neighbor’s perceived code violation (with pictures). The system works with ticketed case numbers, just as various online operations do. But the system’s value is focused on residents’ needs, and will soon develop a means of having work orders quickly transmitted to workers in the field so issues can be resolved more rapidly.
It is of course free to use whether through the app or through the website. The city intends it as a way to transform the way it interacts and communicates with residents.
Palm Coast Connect is online and the free app is now available in both the Apple and Google Play App Stores. You can report concerns or access the growing Information Center – or you can register and track the progress of how your concern is handled.
“We’re focused on making City government more accessible to our growing community, and this makes us available to residents 24/7,” said Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland. “We are empowering residents to use Palm Coast Connect to be our eyes and ears in the community – let us know when you see an issue that needs to be addressed. This will help us respond more quickly and improve our customer service overall.”
Imagine walking on one of Palm Coast’s 130-odd miles of trails and you notice something that needs attention. You can simply take out your smart device, snap a picture, easily and quickly create a request and get back to your day knowing you enabled the city to be aware of the issue and to address it.
“With Palm Coast Connect our citizens receive real time updates as their concern is addressed and when it’s resolved,” Schweers said. “Having the ability in real time to track issues and communicate with people sets a new standard for communication excellence. Now people will get update emails automatically and be able to sign in to Palm Coast Connect to see how the City is working for them as it happens.”
Internally, Palm Coast Connect will automate work orders and consolidate the multiple software systems used by city departments. Data from the new system will be used to improve response time, standardize internal processes and prioritize resources for better customer service.
“Palm Coast Connect will provide real-time dashboard analytics to help identify emerging trends and better deploy resources where and when they are needed,” said Palm Coast City Manager Matthew Morton. “This access to meaningful data will enable the city to make smarter budget decisions and save taxpayers money.”
“While you may still call in to our customer service line, Palm Coast Connect really forms a valuable connection with our residents and allows our management team to be more responsive and make better-informed decisions,” Holland said. “I am excited about taking our citizen engagement efforts to the next level and encourage everyone to download the app or connect with us online. I want our citizens to know they have access, and a friend, at City Hall.”
For more information, visit www.palmcoastconnect.com, download the free app from the Apple or Google Play App Store, or call Palm Coast Customer Service at 386-986-2360.