Software to track residents’ service demands

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 23, 2016

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The Sterling Heights City Council recently clicked “on” for a proposal that officials say will fund new city customer service software to make handling resident concerns more efficient.

During a March 15 meeting, the council voted unanimously to fund the SeeClickFix software and its accompanying app for three years — starting July 1 — at an annual rate of $18,696. The proposal was part of the city’s consent agenda, and City Council members did not discuss the issue during the meeting.

According to a city memo, the software will help the Community Relations Department deal with residents’ nonemergency service requests on issues ranging from tall grass to potholes.

City officials said they initially investigated four software possibilities and narrowed them down to two: SeeClickFix and PublicStuff. The memo said city officials chose SeeClickFix in part because it was ready-to-install without much need for customization.

After the March 15 meeting, Sterling Heights Community Relations Director Bridget Doyle said her department has a good customer service system. Normally, residents call or email the department, and then those requests are forwarded to city departments like the Police Department or the Department of Public Works.

“What we do at Community Relations is we pass along these messages to the various departments,” Doyle said. “We are taking these messages, packaging them and sending it along.”

But while Doyle said the city has a track record for resolving complaints, she said Community Relations doesn’t always hear about the issues’ resolutions, and sometimes residents will call back and ask for the status on fixing their complaints.

“For a pothole at 16 Mile and Dodge Park Road, the DPW may be in the process of filling it. It’s at the top of their list, but the resident doesn’t know that,” she said.

What the SeeClickFix system will do is let the resident track complaints in progress and see when the issues are resolved, Doyle said. She said residents may opt to make their requests public or private on the upcoming system, though she said it might be more helpful when the requests are public, since it could reduce duplicate requests.

“It’s a more interactive way to get people involved in customer service, for people to understand and know that their voice is heard and that citizen engagement is known in Sterling Heights,” she said.

Doyle said the software features a map of Sterling Heights so that residents can pinpoint where problems are located. The city will categorize common problems that residents mention, she said.

“We’ll be creating the categories,” she said. “It’ll be anything from trash or debris or graffiti. Even along the trails, if there is a tree down. And there will be an ‘other’ category.”

According to a city memo, the software will be integrated with the Sterling Heights website.

Sterling Heights Department of Public Works Director Michael Moore said he looks forward to the software’s rollout this summer because it will more efficiently notify the proper personnel to get to work.

Moore said the city regularly gets calls from residents about tree trimming, potholes, sanitary sewer backups, water in basements and other tasks that need addressing.

“It’s really part of the daily job responsibilities that we have,” he said. “Work orders are generated, and staff are dispatched to areas of concern.”

The customer service software is among recent measures the city has tried to use technological resources to make itself more responsive to residents in the past year:

• Last year, the city formally unveiled the overhaul of its website through its partnership with the Kansas firm CivicPlus. The redesign was intended to make the site easier to use on mobile platforms, and it also included a new user interface, an email notification system and an online payment system.

• Last year, the city hired a social media and marketing firm that helped the city grow its social media outreach through sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

• In December, the City Development Department announced that the city put some how-to guides online that covered building topics. The department also added quick response codes to certain paperwork. If a smartphone is equipped with the right app, a phone can scan the paper work’s QR code, which connects the phone to a website that contains additional information on permits or scheduling.

Learn more about Sterling Heights by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489. To see more details about SeeClickFix, visit en.seeclickfix.com.

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