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Building new GovTech Software – We’re launching the HeyGov App!

I’ve got some great news to share with all towns, village and cities. Our team is building a new GovTech software that will be interesting for you. It’s called HeyGov!

This is a new project that complements your municipal website. In short, it’s an app that allows your residents to report issues in your municipality.

Here are some examples of how your residents would use it:

“Hey, when is fall leaf pickup this year?”

“Hey, it looks like some kids stole the stop sign from the intersection at Kennedy Lane.”

“Hey, when is somebody going to clean up the graffiti on the park pavilion?”

The purpose of the app is to streamline communication between your residents and the crew that goes out and fixes things. I’m ready to have more municipalities involved with our app development. Your feedback and opinions would be very valuable. As a reward to you and your municipality for your input, I would give you the opportunity to use the software for no fee during the development phase!

See a Live Demo 

To see more about what we’re working on, come join me for a live demo. Just fill out the form on the app page here to get the Zoom link: www.heygov.com/

You can see that the name of the app is called HeyGov. Isn’t that a clever name? We really think so! 😆

Read below for the backstory of the app and our latest progress on providing it to our municipal customers.

I had always wanted to build a dedicated municipal app ever since the iPhone came out more than a decade ago. Several municipalities had even asked me about it years ago too. At that time, I didn’t really have anything unique or compelling to offer that was better than what a website already provided.

All that changed earlier this year. I spent a lot of time stuck at home during the lockdown in Wisconsin due to COVID-19. This gave me ample time to think about how residents can interact with a municipality remotely in a safe way that did not require face-to-face communication and didn’t require visits to the town hall.

I was also thinking of ways that could help municipal staff that were efficient and helpful. You see, I didn’t want to build a platform that just sends more and more emails to municipal staff. Heck, I know you already get so many emails and are probably doing loads of more work for the same pay as you were pre-COVID. I wanted to fix that for you and your municipal colleagues.

I wanted to build an app that solves two main problems and which augments the existing website you already have with us. 

1) I want you to work more efficiently in a way that is helpful. 

To accomplish this task I needed to find a way that doesn’t just stack up more emails in your inbox. Instead it has to be a platform that allows you to process inquiries fast and without any effort on your part. It has to actually help you while also helping your residents. And this is what we are building for you.

2)  I also want your citizens to be happier

I interviewed citizens and asked them about their experiences in interacting with their municipalities. They said it sometimes felt like a “black hole.”  They had little insight into whether their inquiry was received or whether it was even going to be addressed. People also complained about not knowing if their email would even be routed to the appropriate person or department. 

Therefore I started thinking about how to design a platform that didn’t leave citizens in the dark. Instead it would need to be something that provided more transparency. 

The other focus is to build out a system that would treat citizens more like “customers” than simply participants in a conversation with a municipality. This means that we are spending a large chunk of our time understanding how and when citizens would need to interact with your municipality. We can then build a platform that they’d actually enjoy using, which in turn, helps improve their satisfaction and makes them happier.

These are the three main features of the HeyGov app

  1. Issue Tracking
  2. Sending 311 Notifications to your Citizens
  3. Allowing Resident to Participate in Straw Polls

How We’re Developing HeyGov based on your Feedback

In early 2020, we sent out surveys to 550 municipalities to solicit their feedback. We really wanted to see what everybody’s thoughts and ideas were about an app that could help with issue tracking. I have to say that the feedback was incredible! 

We got a lot of great info about how municipalities would use the app, and what features they really want it to do. This feedback gave me the green light to hire a dedicated team to focus on building out the HeyGov app for our municipal customers.

In the last three months, the HeyGov team worked on the design aspect and showing visually how the features would look based on the feedback so far. This became the foundation for what we are building.

Several municipal managers and staff members were kind enough to get on one-on-one calls with me to talk about the project idea by looking at the design foundation. I collected more info about the issues and problems that they faced in their municipalities. We talked about things like citizen complaints, how to deal with them, and how to prioritize reported issues. More importantly, we dove into how to keep citizens happy.

Below are some highlights of things that we discussed on our one-on-one calls with different city, town and village managers/administrators. 

  • How to document each issue that comes in. Some administrators were using Post-It Notes to keep track of issues. Some were using Excel Spreadsheets to track the status of each issue.
  • How to assign issues to different people or departments. Most people were forwarding an email or passing a message to another person. 
  • How to keep citizens in the loop when something is being worked on. Keeping citizens informed was a massive pain point that people had! They said there were not enough hours in the day to inform the residents about everything that was being worked on. A large part of this problem is that administrators felt they need to pick up the phone and speak to the resident who reported a concern, or type up a formal email. It was a time-intensive activity.
  • How to inform residents when something was not going to be worked on right away. In many cases, this was also a huge frustration. Many people wanted to let residents know that their issue was received, and in a polite way say it was not a top priority for the municipality to fix at the moment. They wanted to have a nice way to keep residents in the loop and give them an answer why it was lower on the list of priorities.
  • How to report the items to the elected officials. Many people wanted to share a weekly or monthly report of items reported and items addressed and did not have a system that made this easy to do.

Formal Coding Started October 2020

This month has been a major milestone for the HeyGov team. After more than three months of market research, client validations and product planning, we started work on the development of the app. 

But before I invest too much time and effort into the development phase, I want to create an exclusive “Inner Circle” to get more formal direction & input from those municipalities who are included to use the app. Your input and insight would be invaluable in the early phases of our development. As a reward for your early assistance in the “Inner Circle,” I would offer you full use of the HeyGov technology for no charge during the development phase. 

If you have an interest in being part of the Inner Circle, just register for the Zoom session at HeyGov.com.

Kind regards, 

Dustin Overbeck, Town Web

P.S. – To give you some quick info about the HeyGov app, there will be three main features:

  1. Track the issues that citizens report and keep citizens in the loop about the status of it
  2. Send out 311 Notifications to your citizens
  3. Create and send out ad hoc polling to citizens (basically a municipal version of “Survey Monkey”)