Transforming the Digital Experience for Property Owners
Part 2 of 2 in our Property Services blog series
Most county government websites have some information available for residents about their property taxes, and they may offer options to pay online. But common tasks like combining real estate parcels or appealing an assessment may still require people to visit government agencies in person. Read 5 Principles for Property Services Technology to learn more about the headache—and its antidote—that many property owners and government staff face when completing property-related services online.
We obsess over improving the local government experience with technology that’s centered on the people who use it. This includes the people who live and work in communities, and the staff who are tasked with keeping government running smoothly.
Common Property Questions
In addition to one-time property tax payments, users are looking for many other property services online. To have a county government website that’s truly useful, make sure you’re answering constituents’ most common questions. It’s a benefit to the people you serve, and to your staff, who are tasked with answering simple questions when someone can’t find the answer online.
Are you answering constituent’s most common questions about property services?
- How can I save money on my property taxes?
- Can I set up a payment plan for my property bill?
- What do I need to challenge my assessment?
- What’s the deadline for filing assessment appeals?
- Do I have to pay my property taxes while my appeal is pending?
- How do I combine real estate parcels?
- How do I change the mailing address for my property tax bill?
Avoid Double Data Entry
When it comes to government technology, integration is key. We often come across websites that look nice on the front end, but do not integrate directly with underlying databases. It’s a step forward to allow people to fill out a form online, rather than needing to print it. But what happens when a person clicks “submit”? You’d be surprised how often an online form still necessitates a staff member manually entering that same information into a database.
Save hours of staff time by integrating digital forms directly to the underlying systems of record, like address databases and tax payment software. This means data is entered in the appropriate databases immediately when a person submits a form. It also means that their information is validated even before they submit, as they begin typing in a form. For instance, a partial address can be validated and completed against your GIS or address database. Integration also allows you to connect payments with the search, application, or registration that precedes it, with a consistent user interface presented on the same government domain.
We’ve seen first-hand how powerful it can be to digitize the front and back end of a process, integrating services directly to the associated source system. For one auditor’s office, a business process that once took 5–10 business days now takes 20 minutes from submission to approval.
Consistent Schema = Consistent Interface
A common challenge to digitizing property services is that several agencies oversee different but related services. These agencies have different business processes, and different databases or other software underlying these processes.
In order to present a consistent interface to users, we use a consistent schema that can be applied to meet the most common constituent-government interactions. In this way, constituents and most of the attributes and operations they undertake are expressed through a small number of definitions.
For instance, instead of treating a home and a car as radically different entities, call them Assets. And call a property assessment appeal and a parking permit request a Case. A person can make a request through your website, and the API can easily interpret that request and map the schema operation into an agency-specific operation. So, a person puts in their name and home address, and the API calls up their property parcel number so they can appeal their property assessment.
This allows front-end developers and UX designers to build a consistent user interface on top of varied source systems. And it enables property owners in your county to access all related services, with a familiar look and feel and an intuitive process.
What to Do with All That Data
We know that effective government takes a lot more than efficient technology. It takes the daily effort of thousands of public servants to keep local government running smoothly and supporting people in need.
Having good data is an important first step in this effort. Once a person submits their information, and that information is securely in your database, now the real work begins.
At CityBase, we’ve put thousands of man-hours into understanding which features are most helpful in supporting the back-end workflows for government staff. These automated workflows are available through our platform on a central staff dashboard, where agency admins can see all constituent requests, or just the ones assigned to them. Here are a few staff features that have proven most valuable.
Shortcuts – This is a catchall phrase for “Make X happen when I do Y.” We’ve configured shortcuts for myriad government workflows. For instance, in an Assessment Appeal workflow, once a person submits an appeal, it is automatically tagged as “In Review.” This triggers an automated message to the constituent, letting them know their appeal is in review. When the assigned staff determines all evidence is in order, they can change the status to “Schedule Preliminary Meeting,” which automatically assigns the appropriate staff member, and so on.
Messaging – Back to that automatic message. One of the biggest challenges for government staff is keeping track of all the inbound calls and emails requesting status updates. Instead, automatically alert people when the status of their request has changed. This supports government transparency, builds trust with your constituents, and lessens the burden on staff who are the frontline for constituent questions or complaints. We enable agencies to create pre-set messages that are triggered when a status changes. Staff can also override these auto-messages, or create custom messages and send it to a constituent from the same dashboard where they manage that person’s request.
Case Management – This allows you to track separate but related requests and processes for the same person. For instance, you can view the status of a person’s request for a senior citizen’s property tax deduction before enrolling them in a payment plan for that same property.
A One-Stop Shop for Property Owners
Give property owners a single place for all their needs—from requesting a mortgage deduction to paying full or partial property taxes. Transforming manual processes into digital ones make homeowners happier, and it allows agencies to collect better data while saving valuable staff time.
Learn more about the CityBase approach to property services at thecitybase.com/property-services.