Tom Carlson has a good idea of what goes on behind the scenes when residents report an issue to the city. As Northglenn’s neighborhood services supervisor, he’s seen his share of cases in which …
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Tom Carlson has a good idea of what goes on behind the scenes when residents report an issue to the city. As Northglenn’s neighborhood services supervisor, he’s seen his share of cases in which residents called in a request, then felt immediately out of the loop.
“You have a complaint and you don’t know what’s happening,” he said. “You know that you turned it in, but you don’t know what’s been done about it.”
However, that dilemma is a thing of the past, he said, thanks to mobile app Access Northglenn. Released by the city last April, the free app acts as a Citizen Relationship Management system (CRM), offering an alternative way for residents to report a problem and stay updated on the progress of a case.
Through the app, citizens inform the city of an issue, first selecting a category from a list that includes Streets and Sidewalks, Traffic and Code Enforcement, among other topics. Users then fill out a form, which is immediately sent as an email to the department responsible for handling the request.
Residents can also track the progress of an existing issue or access a directory that lists all department phone numbers.
While most nearby cities do not have similar technology available, a handful have released CRM apps similar to Access Northglenn. Denver, for example, launched its app pocketgov at the beginning of this year.
In Northglenn, city employees decided to create the app to “better track and respond to resident requests,” said Bob Lehr, the city’s director of information technology.
In the seven months since it launched, Access Northglenn has been downloaded 512 times. City employees have responded to 357 requests sent through the app, averaging about two completed requests per business day.
Lehr said the most common types of requests are graffiti, code enforcement and abandoned vehicles.
“When a request is completed, the citizen receives a survey about how the request was handled,” he said. “There have been 99 surveys filled out, and over 80 percent of the responses have been `superior’ or `good.’”
For Carlson, the app presents several benefits over traditional phone call requests. For instance, residents can send a GPS location and picture of the issue in their form, making it easier for employees to locate the problem.
Further, the technology “makes communication flow a lot smoother” between different departments of city, he said. This makes a difference with issues like graffiti, in which multiple departments are involved. As each department completes its part of the process, Carlson said they communicate with each other exclusively through the app.
Meanwhile, Access Northglenn also eliminates the possibility of duplicate requests, automatically combining repeat submissions into the same case.
“Usually, when there’s a pothole on 120th Avenue, you get 10 to 15 calls from different people,” Carlson said. “This way, if there’s a neighborhood issue, (residents) can go on there and say `oh, it’s already been created, I can just track that issue.’”
This feature allows anyone in the city to access the most up-to-date information on a specific issue.
“If the city manager or city council wants to find out what is happening with a certain case, they can go in and see it was submitted on this date, it went to this department, and this is where we’re at now,” he said.
Since residents started using the app, fewer phone calls have come through to Neighborhood Services, Lehr and Carlson said. However, this doesn’t mean fewer requests are being made; Carlson added that residents are more likely to report issues now than they were before, as the app provides a convenient alternative to calling in a complaint.
“If you have that app right there at your fingertips, you can just pop a picture and send it off,” he said. “The ease of access definitely outweighs some of the more traditional methods that we’ve been utilizing in the past.”
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