City Department Managers Talk Text Messaging

How can text message communication solve hundreds of problems for city department managers everywhere?

In this webinar, Engage by Cell Senior Mobile Solutions Consultant Patty Ruland moderates a discussion with Douglas Kinley, Management Analyst in the City Manager’s office of the City of La Quinta, and Shanelle Armour, Purchasing Assistant in the City of Newark Public Works, as they share their experiences using text message communication with the residents of their communities. 

Engage by Cell team members Daphne Harper and Lester Rosales also provide insight into the uses of mobile technology for parks and recreation and libraries.

View Slides

Here are the highlights of the panel discussion:

Communication Goal: Resident Engagement

One of the biggest potentials in text message communication is resident engagement. It's not just reporting graffiti or someone telling us, “One of your sprinkler heads is broken.”  We want to provide not only 24/7 help, but we also want to provide the ability to take video and report situations in real time. We want our residents to feel like when they're communicating with us, it’s a meaningful conversation that gets away from the black and white of “just remove this because it's a hindrance,” to “let's do creative problem solving, let's actually have a dialogue and see how we can improve things.”  -Douglas Kinley, City of La Quinta

Community Residents Feel Heard

This form of communication has been very beneficial. Our residents have expressed that half the time when they’re complaining, it's because they just want to be heard. It's not because they feel so vehemently about a particular issue. It's more like they just want to get acknowledgement that the city understands their concerns. - Douglas Kinley, City of La Quinta

Instantaneous Communication

It's about getting real info out there and that's where text messaging comes in. With text messaging, you can have an instantaneous, direct response to your residents. It has really elevated things and made people feel better. For example, when our residents text us about broken water fountains or snakes on a hiking trail, we can take that realtime information and text it out to anyone who signed up. - Douglas Kinley, City of La Quinta

Using QR Codes

The system is very easy to navigate. If you want to add a QR code to your text message, it's very easy. We can even put the QR code on our Instagram, and people can obtain information there. - Shanelle Armour, City of Newark Public Works

Community Alerts

Just the other day, we had a trash truck on fire. Someone tried to dispose of hazardous waste in an improper way and unfortunately, flammable materials got out and caused a shutdown of a heavily populated area. We were able to immediately text that safety alert out. If you're a resident, when those issues arise, do you want to read about it in the newspaper tomorrow, or do you want to be able to hear about it in realtime and be able to consider, “I better avoid that road” or “I have family that lives nearby”? - Douglas Kinley, City of La Quinta

Worthwhile Investment in Your Community

Regarding text messaging, it's a worthwhile investment in the infrastructure that you bring to your community. Here in the City of La Quinta, we love chatting with our community. We want anyone who has any thoughts or questions to reach out to us because that's what we're here for.” - Douglas Kinley, City of La Quinta

Waste Management Use Case

We had changes in our refuse collection schedule so we had to notify all of our residents, our council people, as well as the union reps. How can we possibly do that? In the past, we mailed out postcards to everyone. So this time, Engage by Cell text messaging helped to spread the word. Plus, when residents enrolled in text messaging, we were able to divide them into zones and send messages relevant to those zones. - Shanelle Armour, City of Newark Public Works

Social Media Posts Versus Text Messaging

We post information on our Instagram and Facebook page, but because we don't have enough followers, the word just doesn't spread as fast. It wasn't as effective. So that's why we switched to text messaging. It has  worked out really well for us. - Shanelle Armour, City of Newark Public Works

Communities Expect Engagement with Technology

There's an expectation, quite frankly, that as community members, wherever we go, there's going to be a technology component there. Whether we're using our phone to research the area we're in or using a QR code to order lunch. These are the kinds of things that we're seeing pop up all around the place.- Daphne Harper, Engage by Cell
- Daphne Harper

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