What Residents Want — A Guide to Informed Decision-Making


For cities, resident engagement is at the forefront of strategy and decision-making. When cities have a greater understanding of how (in-person visits, smartphone apps, text messages, etc.) residents want to interact with their local governments, and what services (utility billing, public health, pothole repair, etc.) to prioritize  —  civic engagement improves. Granicus set out to discover those exact critical insights in 2020 and surveyed residents nationally to explore community sentiments on the accessibility of local government services. Two years later, Granicus surveyed residents again to see how sentiments have or have not shifted.

Let’s uncover key findings from the survey that cities can use to make more informed decisions, starting with respondent data about levels of satisfaction:

1. Resident satisfaction with accessing services

The good news is that 62.8% of respondents said they were very satisfied or satisfied with local government access, an increase of nearly 7% from 2020. The jump goes to show that local governments have made strides in engaging with residents, which is notable considering that COVID-19 brought many obstacles to engagement, like stay-at-home orders. Though over 37% of surveyed respondents did not express positive feelings about their ability to access government services  —  meaning there is still some work to be done for transformation.

Positive sentiments are just one piece of the puzzle that contribute largely to resident satisfaction  — the channels residents use to access information.

2. Preferred channels of services

In 2020 when Granicus surveyed residents, 50.6% of respondents said their most-preferred way of interacting with local government was via in-person visit. In 2022, that figure declined to 46.6.%. It may be reasonable to consider that the decline in preference for in-person visits can be attributed to the pandemic, stay-at-home orders, and a general shift toward hybrid and remote work.  With that same regard, smartphone apps crept up the list of preferred channels of engagement with local government services. Further, smartphone app popularity might lend itself to users increasingly expecting services through mobile applications for other daily services  — Amazon, DoorDash, Uber, and more. Residents have come to expect the same convenience for the apps they use daily as they do for accessing services with the local government.

3. Generational attitudes

Old person on phone

Now that we have uncovered preferred channels of engagement and why smartphone apps may have become increasingly popular let’s dive into some demographic insights. Granicus asked respondents to agree or disagree with the statement “I can communicate with my local government easily.” The breakdown of the data suggests that as generations age, generations tend to agree with the statement, and younger generations tend to disagree with the statement. The result is not so surprising, as local governments have years of experience communicating with older generations and younger generations tend to have higher digital expectations.

4. Services to prioritize

It’s clear from the survey results that local governments must prepare to offer multiple channels of access to services to accommodate generational preferences. For more informed resource allocation, local governments must also recognize the services residents want digitized most. Granicus developed a matrix that ranks services from highest to lowest in:

  1. Total service usage
  2. Interest in smartphone or tablet access by anyone who accesses the services
  3. Interest in smartphone or tablet access among residents who access specific services most frequently (at least once every month)
  4.  Greatest dissatisfaction with specific services
  5. Greatest dissatisfaction with specific services among residents who access those specific services most frequently (at least once every three months)

Pothole puddle

Based on the matrix above, the top ten services for local governments to prioritize were:

  1. Utility billing
  2. Pothole and street repair requests
  3. Public health
  4. Building permits 
  5. Library services
  6. 311 services
  7. Water and sewer emergencies
  8. Fire and EMS
  9. Recreation programs
  10. City and county government meetings

Knowing what services to prioritize is essential for local governments to focus their digitization efforts. As mentioned earlier, smartphones are an increasingly popular channel for accessing services too, and so Granicus measured the average interest in smartphones or tablets for accessing key services on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being very interested).

Millennial on phone

The results for services to prioritize smartphone or tablet access:

  1. Utility Billing – 3.49
  2. Public Health – 3.46
  3. Library Services 3.39
  4. Fire/EMS- 3.39
  5. Pothole repair requests – 3.36

Powerful government CRMs (constituent relationship managers) offer mobile app integrations that allow residents to access these services from the convenience of a smartphone.

Let’s move forward to other key findings that can help guide local governments to make data-backed decisions.

  • Almost 40% of respondents still think it’s difficult to access city services using their preferred method of access
  • 66% of respondents include mobile apps in their top four preferred methods of accessing city services vs. email, phone calls, in-person, mail, SMS/text, and others
  • Generational disparities persist year over year as younger generations still disproportionately disagree that they can easily communicate with local government compared to other generations

Bottom Line: Resident engagement is driven by strategy and informed-decision making. When cities employ government solutions to meet resident trends, digital transformation, and engagement flourishes.

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