The application period for this challenge is now closed

  • Governer Partner :City of Walnut Creek
  • Department :Economic Development Team
  • Category :CRM / application management, Process Improvement, Workflow improvement

Project Summary

Reduce wait times and improve the experience for residents who are waiting at the City’s Development Services Permit Center through a thoughtfully-designed, modern queuing tool.

Challenge Details

Walnut Creek’s Development Services Permit Center serves more than 12,000 visitors a year. The Permit Center itself is centrally located in City Hall and, on busy days, applicants waiting for service can struggle to find a seat or spend several minutes waiting for their scheduled appointment.

The team has already come up with informal, creative ways to make the experience better for visitors, such as a paper-based sign-in form, color-coded routing slips to guide visitors through different steps, and pagers to alert on-call staff when they need to visit the counter. However, the right technology tool could make the experience even better for both staff and the applicants they serve.

If done well, a queuing system would allow visitors to know when they arrived and exactly how long they have to wait. It would give the City the ability to track response times and proactively alert managers during especially busy time periods. It would page relevant staff members after an applicant has signed in. Finally, it is also very important to staff that any technology used for this purpose still feel very empathetic and human; we want visitors to feel like their needs were fully seen and met, and not like they were just a number.

Our current system is a mix of a written sign-in sheet, a color-coded routing system, a web of information tracked in the heads of our Permit Technicians, and a set of cell phone pagers that are in danger of going technologically extinct.

The Development Services Permit Center is one of the City’s most visible, most utilized points of contact with our residents. It sets the tone for an entire customer service experience. The visitors to this counter range from single homeowners who want to replace their water heater to small business owners doing a tenant improvement to large-scale developers who are investing millions of dollars in a major project.

Both staff and applicants have long identified this center as an area in need of creative rethinking, and redoing our queuing system is a key step in that. Concretely, every extra minute of time that an applicant or staff member spends waiting is a minute that could be used to help move forward their actual project. The City’s Development Services Team seeks a technology tool that manages the Permit Center’s waitlist, wait times, and internal paging system. We’ve been inspired by thoughtfully-designed queuing tools seen at restaurants and other private businesses in the past, and we believe that government should rise to the best practices in the field today.

This tool should result in:

• Applicants receiving better information about their wait time
• Decreased crowdedness in the Permit Center during peak periods
• Better data around wait times at our Permit Centers
• Applicants feeling cared for and respected during what may be their first encounter with City services