Data Into Dollars: PublicStuff

March 4, 2015 6:00 am PST | Data as a Service, Data into Dollars
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Citizen expectations around services and technology have never been higher. As we seamlessly “one click” order from Amazon or know with down-to-the-second accuracy when our Uber driver is arriving, we believe our city should be able to fix the pothole down the block with similar ease, speed, and flawless communication. But cities are complex and not designed around apps, so meeting citizen demands can be a challenge.

That’s where PublicStuff comes in.  

PublicStuff helps cities create productive customer relationships with their residents. The company offers cities white-labeled citizen engagement apps and websites which offer both a great user experience and, on the backend, fully integrate with government processes and third-party work systems.

“We aren’t creating a glorified inbox for cities,” Trevor Clark, PublicStuff’s VP of Sales told Socrata on a recent phone interview. “We treat each service request individually. So, if potholes are handled by someone other than the person who takes care of street signs, that request is directed to the right city employee and into the right city workflow.”

The company is philosophically committed to allowing government to control its communications, deciding which service requests should be publicly visible or private or better managed internally. “This is the city’s channel to use in the most productive way it sees fit,” Clark says.

Customized management of service requests is better for citizens, as well as governments. The PublicStuff interface means residents don’t have to know how City Hall works to report an issue. Each city can control its own naming conventions to make its app more comprehensible to its citizens. And, when residents report an issue, they are walked through conditional menus of issues, as PublicStuff drills them down further and further to report information with ease and accuracy.

Critically, PublicStuff apps make reporting an issue transactional so that citizens can visibly track their city’s progress. That means fewer frustrated citizens and greater efficiency for the city.

Clark says Philadelphia would need an additional five employees in its call center were it not for the city’s use of a PublicStuff app. In smaller cities, which may not have the ability to staff a call center at all, PublicStuff allows that same level of service without the overhead.

“We’re also reducing overtime in certain departments, because people aren’t sent out on duplicate requests. We can improve routes for teams and make sure small issues are solved before they become big ones,” Clark reports.

PublicStuff isn’t just for reporting issues. It manages outgoing communications for cities too, including event announcements, weather and traffic updates, and civic engagement.

Plano, Texas has been able to do a 150 percent more effective job in reducing unnecessary water usage than its peer cities by using its PublicStuff app to make citizens more aware of the problem. In turn residents feel more comfortable reporting water conservation concerns, such as neighbors washing their cars on days with restrictions.

Two-way conversations between cities and their residents is key to civic engagement says Clark, which is why the app and website allows for dynamic translation. So, if a city has large English, Spanish, and Russian speaking populations, they can all log and follow service requests (whether it is their own or one entered by a neighbor) in their native language.

PublicStuff’s goal is to let people see good government in action, not just provide another place for citizens to log complaints. “It’s not just an app for when you see a pothole,” Clark promises. “It’s a mobile front door to City Hall.”



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