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.
Hopeful Citizen says
I am delighted our city has an app like this. I am downloading it now! I know personally that there are hundreds of misdirected calls within out city – people trying to find the right dept to talk to for their complaint. I am hopeful this app will solve a lot.
WILLIAM NELSON says
I have NEVER had a response from our “mayor” or a city council member when I have emailed ! Why would I expect one now, even though they’ve spent $ tens of thousands on this??? (and NO ONE knows at the moment the hidden costs (ie yearly maintenance) What is wrong with our city reps???
WILLIAM NELSON says
Great——by the same NON-RESPONDERS ????
I would never use it. I have a flip phone. When I had a smart phone and I text it always collided with other letters, even when I used a stylus. Grrr!
This is definitely a good start. Things like this I don’t view as expense, but rather as an investment. The reason being is that it has the potential to streamline business process, improve services, and actually reduce other costs. It also has the potential to increase real engagement with residents which typically leads to more ownership over one’s community and involvement. Good job and it will be interesting to see where it goes.
What is the equivalent of a phone call not being answered in this new application? Calling the city provides at least 5 minutes of uninterrupted music and then you might get a human voice. The city needs to put people who are currently on the payroll to work. The landscape crews for example need to be taught the basics, cut, edge and blow. Palm Harbor Parkway is discusting..
Palm Coast Resident says
I like it! It’s efficient, and as the community continues to grow and evolve, so will this platform (hopefully). We’re starting to get a little too big to operate like the town of Mayberry.
Little bird says
Numbers might be skewed; here’s my typical situation when call to city main number: what option was it? I can’t hear them all because my phone keeps cutting out with PC lack of cell service. So I call back when I’m standing outside or visiting Flagler Beach. Then call is dropped when I’m transfered. I call back. Then I finally get to a contact but they aren’t available so I leave a message. Sometime- usually next day if I’m lucky- someone calls me back but I usually miss the call because of poor cell service. They leave generic message. I’m back at square 1 all over again!
Steve knows says
All apps require permission from the user. This app requires Access photos, track location, etc etc. Wonder what Coastal Cloud or our mayor (employee of both) is going to do with all the extra free data it mines or has access to from Palm Coast residents under the veil of FREE app the city didn’t privately commission or put to bid. Freedom isn’t free.
And they will ignore or silence you, just like they do residents at town meetings.. Unless you have the “right” last name in your family.
https://www.palmcoastgov.com/ I get it on the computer. It lists info on whom to e mail or call, as well as other things.
Cheney Hidalgo says
Nobody in their right mind believe this crock of crap. You idiots that cannot direct a caller to the appropriate place need replacement if this issue is really “costing our city so much”. Bullocks complete bullocks…..
I’ll preface by saying that the concept, idea, and technology behind this service is spectacular. All cities and townships should have access to something like this. Palm Coast is fortunate to have, apparently, inside access to a consulting group that coordinates and builds these solutions on one of the world’s largest and most expansive customer engagement platforms. Good for Coastal Cloud. Hope they can use this as a case study and shining sample that they can carry to other townships across the country and make lots and lots of money for the Hales and their financiers.
WITH THAT SAID…
@Steve above says it quite bluntly…. Where is the by-law process for this public/private partnership that is supposedly “free”? All government is required, again, by law, to maintain an arm’s length relationship with private enterprise. Those rules are in place for obvious reasons, ya know, due to the kind of nefarious dealings we have seen recently with other local city and county departments and personnel.
Was there an open bidding process? If not, why not? Offerings of free services do not exclude nor circumvent the laws of the land that I’m aware of.
With a lack of open bidding, there likely is a lack of a service level agreement. That means, who has access to my information? Who is protecting my information? Who is responsible (civilly and financially) when (not if) it breaks? Where is this information published for public consumption?
Unless you’re living under a rock, there are many high profile cases around the country where foreign entities have hacked into and taken ransom city government computer, network and telecommunication systems, the most recent is Lake City, FL. (small town) and Baltimore, MD (big town). So is the city of Palm Coast prepared to take ownership should such a incident occur here? Is Salesforce.com? Is Coastal Cloud? Is Intracoastal Bank? Does this “free” service exclude those responsibilities from all involved?
Again, these are the reasons we have open government bidding processes, along with actual, enforceable contracts and service level agreements thereafter.
Carolee Maynard says
Seems to me that if the CITY was doing its job. This back up layer would be completely superfluous.
Kudos to Stretchem! No County governance… how is this allowed to happen.
This is fraught with ‘whistleblower’ potential, and more. The relationships here noted are not acceptable business practice.
Nothing is for free,,,,sooner or later, you pay. Enough said, my goodness !
Great. Another means for the terribly high concentration of nosey neighbors to not mind their business further by anonymously reporting silly things based on the “cities” codes.
Now how much did this cost to have done? Why aren’t there more street lights in town again?
2 messages via Palm Coast website, 1 email to Mr. Branquinho, all I get is crickets. I will just say if I treated the public like this over my 40 years with FDOT I would have been fired.
PC worker says
Where i worked up north, and i worked for a larger city than Palm Coast, If a call came into your Department and the call was not answered your were given a day off without pay.Try that here and see what happens