A little more human

How many times has your car coughed over a pothole, sending you bouncing above your seat and into a temporary rage of “[Favorite expletive]! Why doesn’t anybody fix this?” Followed by “That’s it, I’m writing to the mayor! The city! The universe!”

But then you notice that you forgot your shopping list and narrowly miss a meandering pedestrian and the pothole incident gets filed under “never mind” forever. Because frankly, dealing with municipal affairs and filling out city forms can be a time-wasting mess.

But not for one Canadian city. Located in central Quebec, the town of Victoriaville centered its entire online strategy on Typeform technology to better communicate with its 45,000 citizens. Like little municipal magicians, they use online forms to make it easier for residents to voice concerns, give feedback, or suggest improvements to local infrastructure.

And that’s not all, the wizards behind the roll-out also used Typeform to create a step-by-step walking guide for tourists, set up a quiz on how snow removal works, and let people quickly get their building permits or rate the state of any public park.

Here’s what Jonathan Moisan, New Media Consultant for the City of Victoriaville, had to say:

How do you power citywide conversations with citizens?

Easy. Engage people by making the process really simple. Let’s take a common city problem: building permits. To speed up the process, Victoriaville now lets users submit requests online via a typeform, allowing them to focus on one question at a time.

Quick win? It replaced the archaic PDF form they’d been using for several years. And besides the obvious “wow factor,” it also created a ton of extra advantages, like:

  • Letting people send information from virtually anywhere, anytime via their mobile device.
  • Eliminating the inefficiency and mind-numbing yawner that is manual data entry for staff.
  • Saving people a trip or two to city hall.
  • Allowing integrations with third-party products to get things running automatically.

City employees are notified whenever a new request or response comes in, while inbound data instantly populates Google Sheets. This nifty trick is really useful for time-sensitive things like building permits where in the past, staff needed to contact people directly to get a hold of their—wait for it—paper plans.

Remember paper? Remember mail? Remember trees? And all this took place after the original requests were sent, causing a bureaucratic backlog that would make any Kafka scholar faint.

Today, applicants just upload a digital copy of their construction plans along with their online request and boom! Building permit granted. In record time. Nice one, Victoriaville.

Here’s Jonathan on the process:

Zapier then detects whenever the status of a request has been updated on the spreadsheet and sends an email to the requesting citizen with the option to add a comment from the municipal team. More from Jonathan:

Seriously, how did they do it?

First, they took their original building permit PDF and tagged problematic areas. Fields that usually came back incomplete or flat-out wrong. Then, to increase the quality of information they got back, Victoriaville transformed the old fields into super straightforward questions that are easier to understand—massively speeding up the process.

Plus, when people clearly understand what’s going on, the quality of their responses increases.

Those are the types of little things that can affect service delivery as a whole. And in the public sector, shouldn’t that be what it’s all about? Flawless service? Victoriaville gets it.

To shine up the process, Jonathan and his team also created a “sunny” template which banks on a light, discreet design to make the whole experience a little more fun. How could anyone resist a radiant page ?

But Victoriaville didn’t stop there. Once they saw the transformational potential of a more intuitive experience, they set out to revamp every human interaction in their workflow. And that’s when things got really interesting.

A complete citizen feedback system

So back to our pothole situation. Say you didn’t almost take out a pedestrian at the knees and remembered to slip your grocery list in your back pocket. That pothole is still fresh in your mind (and almost under your wheels) and you’re ready for some civic-duty action.

So you whip out your phone, snap a photo of the beast (after pulling over of course—safety first), upload the evidence, and report that asphalt crater to the folks at city hall. The same goes for burnt out street lamps or backed up sewers. See, snap, send.

Satisfied, you drive away and whistle a merry tune as a unicorn winks at you from the backseat. And it’s all possible because of the intuitive, tailor-made design of a whole new user feedback experience. Incredible. for yourself.

Damaged infrastructure is reported to city hall via a typeform.

Now, say you’ve planned a barbecue in the park with neighbors on the weekend. Neighbors. You know, the people who live next door that you never talk to unless there’s something missing from your cupboard. Weeks of planning go into the event. Things like potato salad, plastic cups, and a pickup truck filled to the rim with boxed wine.

That’s why it’s so distressing when you get to the park and find “leftovers” from a makeshift petting zoo scattered across the lawn. If this scenario happened in our fair Victoriaville, park personnel would have just the tool to quickly rectify the situation.

Using Jonathan’s “Status of City Parks” feedback typeform, staff use their smartphones to report the state of parks on a daily basis. And if needed, they can quickly queue them up for cleanup. They can even upload photos, videos, and send in comments about the situation. Better than a paper form paired with boring Excel data entry? You bet. Faith in municipal maintenance—restored!

But what about internal matters? Does Victoriaville ever dip into their own stash of forms? Practice what they preach? Bien sûr! Just as he delivers seamless interaction for citizens, Jonathan’s masterclass extends to polling his own staff for feedback.

It’s called employee satisfaction: an important metric that measures people’s happiness within the workplace. Because when people are happy, they produce better work. They’re also sick less often. And first-class customer service becomes ingrained.

So how do you measure it? People park their opinions at the entrance of the office unless you ask them properly. Give them a more human experience and they’ll gladly tell you what they’re happy about and what could be improved—specific things they want changed. And these shiny gold nuggets can up your productivity. Victoriaville for that too.

Victoriaville uses a typeform to queue parks for maintenance.

More from Jonathan:

And the list went on and on. Using Typeform, the city of Victoriaville created an entire feedback ecosystem to make life easier for residents and staff. Check out some of the other amazing ideas they came up with:

  • Dealing with claims and damages
  • Evaluating health and wellness initiatives
  • Quiz on how city snow removal works
  • Submit ideas for activities and events
  • Step-by-step city tour for tourists

And that’s just a few. Last we checked, there were nearly fifty typeforms in development! That my friends, is Typeform ninja status.

Do you have a similar project in mind? Is your city in need of an online forms overhaul? Do you want to save some trees? Make your residents a little happier? See the how-to tips below to turn any-sized project into a more intuitive communication tool.

 


How did they do it?

1) Show, don’t tell—let people upload files
Imagine Marcel Proust had to describe a pothole. You’d have a dissertation of 50 pages on your hands. Save time, use photos. And videos. People like those. Find out how to let users upload media to your typeform.

2) Use Logic Jump to keep questions relevant
Sometimes the questions you ask depend on a participant’s earlier response. Tailor your conversation to a particular user’s needs using Logic Jump. Learn how to set up Logic Jump.

3) Set up Self notifications, so you know when people answer
Are you checking your results page every two minutes to see if someone answered? Stop! Set up Self notifications instead. You can get answers to specific questions, or every question, sent straight to your email.

4) Integrate other applications
Need to take incoming data and send it to Google Sheets? How about taking someone’s contact info and dropping it in your favorite CRM? Typeforms are a great interface for interacting with your users. But they’re even more powerful when linked up to other applications. And you can easily integrate with lots of them, directly from the Configuration tab. Learn how to connect Typeform to your favorite tools.

And of course let us know if you have any questions! Our team is always here to help.