The basic problem the article outlines is that traditional, phone based 311 systems are very expensive. "A recent 15-city study of 311 by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that the average cost per 311 call is $3.39. Detroit came in with the highest cost per call at a whopping $7.78. Given that many cities handle hundreds of thousands if not millions of calls per year, those costs add up dramatically, causing some to question whether constituent convenience is worth the cost." In 2015, Detroit and SeeClickFix partnered to help address not only the high cost of handling citizen requests, but to engage residents in the city. The result of this partnership have saved Detroit tens of thousand of dollars and had an astounding impact on the quality of life for residents.
SeeClickFix is very affordable and straightforward to implement. The platform was launched in 65 towns, cities and counties in 2015 and a record 2 million issues have now been reported through the program. While we have much to be proud of, some of our greatest pride has come from the direct impact we've had on the health of the cities we work with. A healthy city has a stable or growing population, a growing grand list through new construction and/or increased value of property within the municipality, and a high level of contentment and participation from residents.
"Online alternatives to 311 calls generally are very inexpensive to launch, giving cities little to lose," the GovTech article states. "There are almost zero barriers to entry," said one city official. "There isn't a lot of capital needed to offer online options." SeeClickFix CEO and Founder Ben Berkowitz was featured in the article, speaking to the ability that SeeClickFix gives to municipalities to save on costs, while enhancing the quality of experience for their constituents. "There is no question that in the last few years there has been a real trend toward customer service in general, and social media is a big part of that," said Berkowitz. "SeeClickFix was designed to help bridge those two areas to make positive change happen more quickly and efficiently."
Beyond the savings areas outlined above, SeeClickFix can impact a city's budget in many small ways too. There is savings in helping to unify departments onto the same software, not only because of the cost of operating and maintaining multiple systems, but because it's easier to communicate about issues that may touch multiple departments. Similarly, this improvement in communication makes it easier to plan. The internal work order side of SeeClickFix can gather data for smart planning, make annual or routine reports take less time to complete, and even track the productivity of employees and departments. Having online tools that show citizens what has already been reported removes duplicates. The platform gives another outlet for reporting concerns during emergencies cutting down on phone calls to city hall. All of these efficiency improvements save real time and money, and can add up to significant savings in towns of all sizes.
We're pleased to see that our ability to save municipalities money while enabling them to engage with their citizens more effectively is being recognized, and look forward to providing this service to more cities in the near future.
- Cost of answering 10-15 calls per week, annually: $2,291
- Cost of rolling trucks without GIS information or photos tied to requests:$14.41 per hour on average for Public Works crewman
- Driving a pickup or panel truck 5 cents per mile, so any backtracking to get more supplies or non-optimal driving routes between worksites can have a significant impact on the cost of handling an issue.
- Time cost of reconciling duplicate requests, following up with town hall departments on behalf of citizens, assisting frustrated repeat callers, and so on. (average hourly wage for all occupations is $22.71 nationwide).
- Cost of having multiple platforms to handle workflow for different departments can range from tens to hundreds of dollars in licensing fees per employee.