inPERSPECTIVE / TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS: Hack Your Operations
How to Use Technology to Streamline Your Recreation Programming
Residents' expectations are high regarding access to digital self-service capabilities from their local government. Busy recreation leaders who want to create positive civic experiences—the kind that keep park-goers and families coming back for memberships, classes and events—must find scalable, easily manageable tools to enable resident self-service without adding time-consuming implementations to their staff. The following is a list of tech hacks to help you streamline digital processes for your residents and your staff.
Customer Service Automation
Busy recreation staff who often receive calls and inquiries from customers about events, memberships, payments and activity details can put hours back in their day by automating the facilitation of common inquiries and requests. In addition, if you eliminate even a portion of those resident queries using automated customer service solutions, you can free up staff to focus on other complex tasks or initiatives. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered chatbots provide a customer service experience that mimics a human interaction with a comparable level of success while also creating valuable bandwidth for staff.
Resident Requests and Feedback
Empower residents to use their civic voices. Community members will always want to provide feedback to their local government, but valuable ideas can get lost without an easily manageable feedback mechanism. Providing a streamlined tool that optimizes this feedback into actionable goals based on data can be beneficial in multiple ways. With the right solution, you can gain valuable insights, track preferences, and make targeted improvements and enhancements to equipment, facilities, a webpage or any other resource you provide to residents. Consider adding a general feedback form to your recreation department webpage that routes inquiries, by category or theme, to relevant staff for a response. When residents receive timely feedback from their local leaders, they feel seen and heard, strengthening feelings of trust in their local government.
According to one report, the average American spends more than seven hours per day looking at a digital device screen. If you still have instructor onboarding forms, membership documents and other materials that solely exist in paper form, it's time to go paperless. If you have been hesitant about leveraging online forms to capture protected health information (PHI), know that tools are available that meet compliance and privacy standards. With less paper, you can be more nimble—and replace the rows of filing cabinets in your office with a trendy cappuccino maker.
Secure, Seamless Payment Options
Nothing can stop a positive civic experience in its tracks quite like a barrier to payment. Residents want to complete transactions quickly at any time of the day or night from any device. Consistency throughout your solutions will be vital in creating this seamless environment, so the fewer disparate payment tools you implement across your solutions, the better it will be for residents who want to quickly jump on your municipal website to pay a utility bill, but also pay the registration fee for their kid's summer volleyball league. Remember that each time you create a new process that involves a user needing to create a new set of credentials to log in and complete the action, it takes much more time and commitment from the user.
Convert Your Printed Community Guide to Digital
If your parks and recreation department is still exclusively providing your annual community guide or seasonal class registration booklet in hard copy, it's time to go digital. Doing so will reduce your printing and mailing costs and give today's digitally-minded citizens more convenient access to information about your local park and recreation activities and help them get registered and remit payment faster.
Leverage Video-Conferencing Software for Virtual Programming
Over the past two years, virtual programming became a key tool for park departments as the world reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. To compensate for lost face time and personal connections between government and residents, caring and invested staff began to develop innovative virtual solutions to fill the void left by canceled events, programs, meetings and activities. If your parks and recreation department plans to maintain long-term virtual programming to build on the success of the past two years' online activities, look no further than some of the most popular video-conferencing tools to maintain agile digital program operations. Cisco Webex Meetings, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting and Livestorm, are among the many intuitive tech options that can help you maintain remote learning as a staple in your digital catalog.
Remember, tech hacks should save you time, not add stress or pressure-filled implementation steps to your busy day. Start with your most time-consuming civic experience challenge and explore and test ways to use tech to meet residents' expectations while easing your staff's administrative burden. When you feel confident in your implementation success, move on to the next challenge until you and your team can focus entirely on your department's primary purpose: helping the community get out and get active. RM