May 2015 – Governing, Mary Ellen McIntire
The new app’s focus on positive feedback helps cities improve services and boost employees’ morale.
People don’t typically jump at the chance to point out when public employees excel at their jobs. But maybe they would if governments provided an easy forum for feel-good feedback. At least that’s the hope in the town of Albany, Ore., the first city to pilot an app called Goodsnitch, which offers customers the opportunity to give positive comments and constructive criticism about their service and employees.
Goodsnitch, which was released about a year and a half ago, charges private companies to use its business evaluation tool. But cities can partner with the startup for free. Positive comments made through the app are public, while criticisms are shared privately. Albany has served as the app’s beta tester for use in government, but Goodsnitch founder Rob Pace says he’s in talks with other mayors who want to implement the app. Pace has called it the “anti-Yelp,” contrasting it with review sites that mainly seem to draw complaints from unhappy customers.
Albany, a town of about 60,000 people, has gathered more than 3,000 “snitches” in the year that the app has been in use. It’s already helped the city respond to issues more quickly -- in some cases resolving them as they’re occurring. Last summer, for instance, attendees at an outdoor festival commented on Goodsnitch that a particular parking lot was difficult to exit. Coordinators responded immediately, posting someone at the exit to direct traffic and ease congestion. “Often when we hear from people it’s too late, or we see it on the front page of the paper,” says Katie Nooshazar, the recreation programs manager for Albany’s parks department. “But by then the program is over or decisions have been made. We wanted something real-time that allowed us to correct in the moment.”
Because the app is primarily focused on providing positive feedback for a job well done, it’s a boost for morale, says Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa. For example, she says, consider utility employees. “They’re collecting people’s water and sewer rate; they’re billing. We just had a hard time keeping someone in that position because they’re always hearing someone complain.”
With Goodsnitch, now at least some of what employees hear is good feedback. “It’s helpful for all government workers to get positive comments,” Konopa says, “because usually we’re the recipients of very negative comments.”
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