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Enhancing Government Services While Strengthening Small Businesses

Cities are changing the way they do business. Governments in recent years have been pushing forward on digital transformation and service delivery modernization. It’s a vital part of broader smart city initiatives to better leverage data and technology to enhance the quality of life for urban residents.

Whether it’s regarding traffic and mobility, health and environmental wellness, crime and physical safety, or even economic development, smart city technologies are transforming the urban landscape as well as the government experience for constituents.

As cities have looked for smarter ways to redesign their internal processes and deliver external services in a safer, more convenient manner, many of them have implemented virtual queuing technologies, enabling users to secure a digital spot in line rather than queuing up in person. Such smart-scheduling apps have revolutionized the waiting experience at DMVs, city halls, courthouses, airports and numerous other public facilities in cities and states across the country.

Virtual queuing apps offer key benefits beyond consumer convenience and safety; they also provide valuable data to public agencies about traffic flow and congestion, enabling public leaders to address bottlenecks and other process delays.

For all the same reasons, smart-scheduling technology has become an important tool in the private sector as well. Retail stores, banks, health care facilities and countless other types of companies have adopted virtual queuing solutions in recent years to eliminate wait times for their customers.

Now, some cities are exploring a way to fuse these public and private benefits together: By launching a single citywide virtual queue platform, cities can leverage the technology to transform their own public agencies while also offering it as a valuable tool for small businesses in the community.

Indeed, with the right solution in place, a city can enhance the government experience while also growing and strengthening its entire local business ecosystem.

Virtual queuing is an important economic development tool.

Different Needs, One Solution

The rise of virtual queuing – and the synergistic benefits it brings to city governments and small businesses – reflects the confluence of several current trends.

First, the pandemic has required organizations of all kinds to implement new methods of delivering services, including online and contactless options as well as safer, socially distanced in-person offerings. That has made local governments hungry for technologies that can streamline internal processes, transform organizational management and improve the constituent experience, says Center for Digital Government Chief Innovation Officer Dustin Haisler.

“There’s this opportunity to reimagine and redefine operations and management,” he says. “[Governments] have a unique moment where you can take advantage of new technology to do things differently, to deliver things in a more effective and efficient way that serves the population better.”

Another major trend driving virtual queuing is the focus on optimizing the user experience: Residents today demand the same level of convenience and customer service from government and small businesses they receive from global companies and online retailers. And governments and small businesses alike are looking for human-centered solutions and innovations.

“This increased focus on constituents – that’s really the biggest trend that we’re seeing, and the biggest challenge,” says Rommia White, director of U.S. operations for Whyline, a company that offers virtual queuing technology to public and private organizations.

We’re seeing decreased patience from constituents [regarding] bad experiences with government,” White says. “They want services to be delivered quickly, and they want to feel like the government they’re engaging with really cares about the experience they’re having.”

All these trends are occurring against the backdrop of severe economic uncertainties that continue to worry public leaders, especially in cities, which have been slower to recover from the disruptions of the pandemic. Cities want to leverage technology to strengthen their postpandemic economies, Haisler says.

“It’s economic development, or really, ‘techonomic development’: focusing on how to use technology to fast-track processes, unlock value and do things differently,” he says.

Improving Government While Supporting Small Businesses

For cities looking to transform their own constituent experience while also strengthening the local business economy, implementing a single, citywide virtual queue platform can actually be quite simple.

A new program from Whyline, for example, called City Fast Pass, offers localities an easy way to set up a virtual queue platform for municipal agencies and then share the technology with small businesses in the community. Whyline’s public sector clients already include agencies in Providence, R.I.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Seattle, Wash.; and the company’s private sector clients include multinational banks, Fortune 500 retailers and health care facilities. The City Fast Pass program was a natural convergence of these public and private approaches, says White.

“The most successful cities are the ones who have figured out innovative ways to support small businesses,” she says. “So by crowdsourcing access to technology – and changing how we secure resources for the small businesses in our community – we can actually start to change how economic development looks.”

Traditional economic development approaches, such as tax incentives or downtown revitalization efforts, can take years or decades to actually make a difference in the local economy. Right now, as cities are seeking to jumpstart their post-pandemic economies, they are looking for simple innovations that can have an immediate impact, says White.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we’ve seen how much small businesses struggled,” she says. “So how can [cities] build a more resilient ecosystem to support them – not only now, but for the future?”

When selecting a virtual queue platform, the following are some helpful best practices to keep in mind:

Look to the cloud. Find a platform that’s not only cloud-native, but fully cloud-based. There’s no hardware or software for agencies or businesses to install, and cloud solutions are vastly more scalable than on-premises technologies.

Keep it easy. The right solution should be simple for organizations to implement without redesigning existing processes. It should not require significant training for organizations to begin using. Residents who want to use the technology should be able to access it via a simple online app.

Don’t play favorites. Choose a queuing software that is platform-agnostic. It should function equally well regardless of device, operating system or internet browser – both for users and for organizations on the back end.

Maximize impact. Most importantly, find a single platform that will serve public agencies as well as local businesses. That is the best way to optimize your technology investment and multiply the effect of your IT spend. It’s also the key to unlocking the economic development potential of a virtual queuing solution.

Virtual queuing is an integral part of a modern user experience. It’s a faster, safer, more convenient way for constituents to access government services. And when localities leverage their purchasing power to provide those same benefits to small businesses in the community, the technology becomes a transformative, high-impact tool in cities’ economic development tool belt.
The most successful cities are the ones who have figured out innovative ways to support small businesses. So by crowdsourcing access to technology – and changing how we secure resources for the small businesses in our community – we can actually start to change how economic development looks.
Rommia White, Whyline Director of U.S. Operations

This paper was written and produced by the Center for Digital Government Content Studio, with information and input from Whyline.
In 2015, Whyline Inc was founded to help companies manage the flow of people through the use of virtual queues and 'smart' appointment scheduling. Built with hyper-automation and cloud computing, Whyline's clients' customers can see the live wait-times, enter into the queue remotely or pre-book their appointment, and let the software wait on their behalf until they are to be seen