Greetings from Palm Coast.
“People are the purpose of our work, not a distraction from it,” said Matt Morton, Palm Coast City Manager.
The city of Palm Coast, FL, provides residents, visitors, and the business community with exceptional government services to improve the quality of life, grow the local economy, and protect the natural environment. This translates into a set of objectives that asks teams like Morton’s to make every resident feel heard, make every resident feel like he / she / they is the most important, “and then repeat it each time someone contacts local government. It’s an exercise in scale,” said Morton. It’s an exercise that is challenging enough on the ordinary days, let alone the extraordinary days.
Preparing for the ordinary — and extraordinary — days.
Palm Coast is located in one of Florida’s many hurricane zones, which means the government needs to be prepared to support residents during times of extreme need, often with a moment’s notice. “Pre-storm, we have to not just get the word out, but also overcome skepticism about how bad a storm is expected to be,” said Milissa Holland, Palm Coast City Mayor. “This can include everything from teamwide drills to door-to-door message delivery in order to ensure our city is adequately prepared. It’s a tedious, emotional, all-hands-on-deck process.”
This all-hands mentality continues once the storm has made landfall. During 2019’s Hurricane Dorian, Mayor Holland, Morton, and team were on lock-down in the city’s emergency operations center, reviewing recovery steps and looking for ways to be proactive. Once a storm passes, the team has to clear the city street by street. Firetrucks comb the community, radioing back whether or not there is a downed power line, debris, and so on that needs to be addressed. “We also have to document these response activities in order to get reimbursed from federal agencies like FEMA. And those reporting requirements often change from one year to the next, emphasizing the need for organized record keeping that much more,” said Morton.
Palm Coast, by the numbers
- The City of Palm Coast was incorporated
- Its is home to roughly 90,000 residents and 3,500 business a population that is projected to double by 2035
- Its 60 square miles sit on top of 70 miles of saltwater + freshwater canals, as well as the intercoastal waterway.
- The city is comprised of 21 departments
- These teams handle over 120,000 calls per year, and manage over 11,000 cases per year.
Introducing Palm Coast Connect: A complete contact center on the cloud.
The Palm Coast team deployed Palm Coast Connect, a 311 + case management solution that consolidated 68 different software systems into a single comprehensive customer engagement platform, with three important features:
- 24x7 Self-Service. The platform’s web-style interface was built on Community Cloud. It gives residents self-service options to report concerns, track resolution status, access information about various city services, and more. They can also sign up for an account, using their utilities account number, to receive personalized information and regular communications from city departments. This helps the city scale to manage services via traditional and nontraditional channels alike. “About 20% of our interactions are via phone calls. The rest are email or web-based,” Morton said.
- Case Management. If an inquiry requires any follow-up work, Service Cloud turns it into a case and creates a ticket. Employees use this to loop in the right department, coordinate services, monitor progress, and close the case faster. Knowledge Management serves up articles and FAQ, bringing relevant information to the agent’s desk. “We can also upload photos, see the context of the case, or look for tags like ‘hurricane,’ all of which we use to inform resource planning and reporting accordingly,” Morton said.
- Field Service. The team used Field Service Lightning to create a street-level view of the city. “We pulled our utility meter locations into Salesforce and used the Geopointe app to create an overlay map of the city. Those same teams combing the city in firetrucks use this to check off each street as they go, eliminating the discrepancy that comes from radio communication and paper maps. We could put it up on our big display screen back at the emergency operations center and see the heat map — what had been cleared, what hadn’t, where the most damage occurred, where we need power restored fastest, etcetera,” said Morton. “And we built that all within two hours.”
Palm Coast Connect helps the city hear citizens in times of need and in times of crisis.
Since going live, Palm Coast Connect has managed an average of 70 cases per day, putting the city on track to close over 25,000 cases in total. Many processes (like the aforementioned firetruck maps) went paperless, and standard service response time increased. “One of our city council members brought in a case number about some debris he called in. He asked me who else had reported it. I looked it up in the system, and let him know he was the only one. He said, ‘I called this in, went to walk my dog, and when I came home 30 minutes later, the debris was gone.’ What used to be a five-day process took us half an hour,” said Mayor Holland.
Having a centralized database allows the city to be much more agile, Mayor Holland added. City leaders can configure and customize reports as needed. They can present data the way FEMA might want during a particular cycle or year. They can include context and photographs, show the impact, and tell a more compelling story, potentially eliciting a more complete reimbursement, faster. “When you’re planning for a hurricane, you feel really helpless,” Mayor Holland said. “But this strategy gave us a sense of empowerment, because we could be proactive with some of our biggest problems, take control of the situation, and put a solution into play.”
Most importantly, the team has seen an overwhelmingly positive response from its residents. Satisfaction scores around customer service and city services in general have increased by 9% and 14%, respectively. When Mayor Holland, Morton, or other staff members come into the office each morning, they look through the comments in Palm Coast Connect and see that residents understand the impact:
The team has turned an investment in technology into an investment in the mission.