One of the Office of Innovation’s major goals is to create a City government that is as customer friendly as possible. Customer service is often perceived as something reserved for the private sector, but anyone who has had to renew a driver’s license or pay a water bill knows how important customer service is in the public sector as well. In 2018, Mayor Warren directed the
i-team to explore digitizing the process by which citizens reserve City facilities for public use, specifically our lodge or cabin rentals.
In February, the City launched its new online reservation portal, eRESERVATION, where citizens can look up lodge availability, book their events, and process their payments all from the convenience of their own home. It is what our citizens expect from City government now in this digital age. Since its launch, just over 200 residents have made reservations using the online portal
The task of creating this system may have sounded simple, but it involved nearly every department at City Hall, including the Departments of Recreation and Youth Services (DRYS), Information Technology, Finance, Budget, Communications and Special Events, Environmental Services, and Law. Thank you to each of these teams for making this possible, and a special thanks to the individuals who were part of the core project team: Mai Ho, Leslie Green, Zuleika
Laboy-Llionat, Jim Farr, and Kristina Heiligenthaler from DRYS and Vikki Cheal and Tracey Van Tassell from IT.
We began by mapping the original, in-person process so that we could replicate it digitally in partnership with Hamer Enterprises, the company that the City contracts with for all its online payment systems. This provided us the opportunity to pause and question whether all steps of the original process were actually necessary and efficient. We learned that the answer often was no—there were steps that we agreed were actually just bureaucratic headaches that were not required anywhere in law.
Staff had felt required to complete these steps simply because it was the way things had always been done. For example, in the original process, customers were required to get a signature from a notary and complete a walk-through at the event space before completing their reservation. Upon further research, we determined that nowhere in writing was this actually required but it was just simply a matter of practice that needlessly cost the City and its customers time that could be better spent elsewhere.
We learned that by making the process easier for our customers, we also made things easier on our own staff. Think, if DRYS staff were working with customers to make their reservations for 15 minutes per customers, a generous underestimation, then they have already saved about 50 hours in staff time that can be productively reallocated to other important work.
For now, the system allows citizens to make reservations at all seven of the City’s lodges: Tay House Lodge, Lake Riley Lodge, Danforth Community Center, Genesee Valley Field House, Edgerton Stardust Ballroom, Norton Village Lodge, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park Lodge. In the future, we hope to add dozens more of DRYS facilities to the system, including baseball fields, basketball courts, and more!
Take some time to explore the eRESERVATION system and let us know what you think!