By Tucker Severson

In May 2013, Vallejo, California—a city of 118,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area—had an uncoordinated system for fielding non-emergency service requests from citizens and lacked a means of uniformly communicating progress of request resolution efforts. The city needed a lightweight platform that could be overlaid onto its existing distributed system and harmonize request reporting through centralized management with the auxiliary benefit of improving citizen-focused communication.

The Problem

The Solution

The Products

Before SeeClickFix

The Vallejo Public Works Department (PWD) addresses problems in the municipal infrastructure and public greenspace. It consists of three divisions—Maintenance, Engineering, and Water—in three separate facilities across Vallejo. Before implementation of SeeClickFix, the PWD personnel were not in regular interdivisional contact. The PWD website included contact information for several managerial and administrative staff in each division. When citizens wanted to report an request, they could either email the City Manager, or search through PWD webpages and figure out for themselves whom to call or email. As such, misfiled and overgeneralized reports were a common problem.

Regardless of how or where an request arrived, there was little consistency in correcting misfiled reports and replies from staff acknowledging request receipt were uncommon. In many cases, the city would pass the request through its operational structure to the appropriate person who would quickly resolve it. But in others—if, say, the employee finally tasked with a citizen’s request discovered that a fix had already been scheduled for some point in the future—the problem would not be dealt with right away. Having no way of tracing the source of a request, or whether it had been internally or externally generated, employees could not notify an request’s reporter of either outcome. For requests that were not immediately resolved, this sometimes resulted in frustrated citizens and repeat service requests for the same problem.

After SeeClickFix

SeeClickFix brought a paradigm shift to non-emergency request reporting, management, and resolution in Vallejo. For citizens, the need to scour the city’s website for the correct contact information depending on the specific type of request was replaced by a single, uniform reporting procedure for all request types. Moreover, the service has been deeply integrated into Vallejo’s existing online presence. PWD webpages now prominently display the SeeClickFix map widget tool, and a large button with the distinctive SeeClickFix wrench logo sits near the top of every municipal web page to provide easy, consistent access to the city’s SeeClickFix web portal.

Upon filing an request, citizens stay informed as to the status of that request and can expect periodic contact from the city until it is fully resolved. This eliminated the feedback problem that previously plagued requests that remained unacknowledged or for which an immediate fix was not possible.

SeeClickFix has helped Public Works to become the responsive, customer-service oriented department we want to be known as. Staff that didn’t even have an email address until recently have quickly caught on to how to maneuver around SCF—acknowledging reports and printing work orders. Staff really love how SCF has given them the ability to let customers know the status of their requests and about the hard work they have put in to resolving it. ~ Courtney Schreiner, Administrative Analyst

SeeClickFix proved itself as a valuable citizen education tool in Vallejo. In more complex cases, Public Works staff use the platform not only to explain when and how an request will be resolved, but also why there may be complications or delays. This has fostered a new sense of satisfaction and understanding among the city’s population. The most engaged residents are now better apprised of the resource limitations of the cities various departments. This knowledge has already paid dividends in other forums, such as Vallejo’s participatory budget meetings and the neighborhood-based Nextdoor social network. According to PWD staff, citizens already demonstrate much more awareness of PWD limitations when reporting requests than they did previously.

City staff welcomed SeeClickFix. The platform did away with the common complaint of overgeneralized citizen requests. A road request is no longer simply a “pothole on Main Street.” Since SeeClickFix allows citizens to precisely geotag and categorize requests directly from the mobile app as well as upload images, staff have access to exact coordinates and detailed visuals, allowing them to prioritize a more effective and efficient city wide response. This has only become more true as Vallejo rolls out city-requestd smartphones with the SeeClickFix app to its maintenance staff. With 24-hour mobile access to data, PWD administrators and workers can identify the most dangerous problems, address them in a sensible order, and close tickets from the field. On the ground, the city’s crews have noted a drop in the number of outwardly unhappy citizens, and even a rise in the grateful ones.

Different mobile views from the Vallejo SeeClickFix app.

Vallejo found SeeClickFix easy to administer, even as it becomes more integral to PWD operations. Just one employee can manage SeeClickFix use for over 500 municipal staff in a city of 100,000+ residents. This role not only includes day-to-day tasks such as monitoring usage statistics, coordinating interdivisional responses, responding/routing non-PWD requests, and following up on tickets that have remained open for several weeks, but also more complex ones such as adding new users, rolling out new hardware, and training citizens and employees to make the most of the platform.

Summary

Satisfied with the results, Vallejo has rolled out SeeClickFix beyond PWD. Code Enforcement started using the platform in late 2013, and the city is exploring further expansion to municipal and regional departments and organizations. Residents are more engaged, better informed, and happier with city services than ever before. At the same time, city staff is better coordinated, more accountable, and efficient with resources. SeeClickFix has transformed the way the City of Vallejo does business.

SeeClickFix Made in
New Haven