A new audit says San Diego’s Get it Done! app often gives inaccurate, incomplete or confusing information
A new audit says San Diego needs to improve the accuracy and clarity of its Get it Done! Tipster app to reverse a recent drop in customer satisfaction with the app, which allows people to conveniently report potholes, graffiti and other issues.
The six-year-old application often provides customers with inaccurate, incomplete or confusing information about when the problem they reported will be fixed and when progress has been made toward that goal, the 48-page audit says.
Robin Kaufman, chairman of the Rancho Bernardo Community Council and RB Planning Board, said the app is a good idea, but could use improvements.
“When it was first designed it was slow, but a good concept,” Kaufman said. “People would call their town hall or planning group, (which) would contact the different departments or the Town Hall office. It relieves the average person by educating the public on how to use it.”
Kaufman said the app’s effectiveness “really went down” during the pandemic. He said the city lost a lot of employees, a factor that contributed to timely repairs and fixing situations, especially when it comes to lighting.
“There’s a massive waiting list for streetlights,” Kaufman said, noting that the city is understaffed to fix the streetlights. As a result, repairs can take several months.
The audit also recommends that San Diego catch up with most major U.S. cities and other large cities in California by establishing a centralized 3-1-1 phone intake option for complaints and service requests.
A 3-1-1 system, which would serve as a complement to Get it Done!, would increase equity by making it easier for non-English speakers and the technologically challenged to report problems, auditors said.
The audit says a 3-1-1 system could also increase the city’s emergency response times by moving calls off the Police Department’s non-emergency line.
Phone calls are still the preferred option for reporting problems to the city. The city receives nearly 1 million phone applications a year, compared to the roughly 300,000 annual Get It Done! requests
In response to the findings, city officials agreed to make all of the recommended changes to do just that! These changes include giving customers estimated completion dates for reported issues and interim progress reports.
The city will also create new training programs for employees to give more accurate information and create procedures for supervisors to review communications between city workers and people who submit Get it Done! requests
But most of the changes won’t happen until next summer or the end of 2023, the audit says.
Kaufman recalled reporting a missing sign for Robleda Court at its intersection with Bernardo Trails Drive in The Trails neighborhood of Rancho Bernardo. He reported this on May 12, 2021 and did not receive a response until July 9, 2022.
“It was 14 months after the report was closed and taken care of, just to replace a street sign,” he said.
His experience is not an isolated case, based on comments he has heard from others. Kaufman also said council members’ offices have no push to resolve cases faster.
Potholes and burned-out streetlights are the problems causing the most delays, he said. Graffiti reports tend to be resolved more quickly, as are reports of missed trash pickups, he said.
“I’ve noticed that when residents ask for the red sidewalks to be painted or repainted, they close quickly, within three to four months,” Kaufman said.
City officials rejected the audit’s recommendation to establish a 3-1-1 system, arguing that a central complaint hotline would further erode customer satisfaction by making it easier to file complaints than the city can’t solve quickly.
Officials said they need to improve city services and the ability to respond to complaints before dealing with what they expect will be a sharp increase in the number of complaints.
“Decommissioned, the city would provide better access to a broken system, where customers can report problems in more ways, but where no resources have been allocated to improve how quickly or effectively those problems are resolved.” Kirby wrote. Brady, the city’s chief innovation officer.
City Auditor Andy Hanau said concerns about San Diego being inundated with too many complaints to handle are legitimate.
“But the solution is not to perpetuate a situation that makes it difficult for people with limited English proficiency or limited technology experience and resources to access city services,” Hanau said.
City officials could work on a plan to create a 3-1-1 system while also increasing the city’s ability to handle more complaints efficiently, he said.
“Does Get It Done work? Yes, but it needs to be renewed,” Kaufman said. “There aren’t enough city employees in the departments, so jobs aren’t being completed” in a timely manner.
Of the 10 most populous cities in the country, only San Diego and Phoenix do not have 3-1-1 systems. Of California’s 10 most populous cities, only San Diego, Long Beach and Bakersfield do not have 3-1-1 systems.
Similar to a 9-1-1 system, a 3-1-1 system would allow users to directly access a city hotline for complaints. Such systems were launched by many cities in the 1990s, Hanau said.
The audit occurs as the number of annual reports to the Get it Done! The app has nearly doubled since 2018, mainly because city officials have expanded the different types of issues that can be reported to more than 60.
The number of reports increased from 148,946 in 2018 to 296,209 in 2021. Meanwhile, overall customer satisfaction dropped from 3.4 to 3.1 on a scale of 1 to 5.
Customer satisfaction varies greatly depending on the type of problem reported. Between 2018 and 2021, in general, applications related to encampments, missed garbage collection and parking fell the most.
The audit says a key factor in the low satisfaction ratings is that the app often tells customers their case is “closed” when the issue hasn’t been resolved.
Typically, city officials have marked the case closed because there is nothing the city can do immediately.
The audit says that’s often because the problem is on private property or land located in another city, or because a fix is planned as part of a larger project. A sampling of auditors estimates that 19 percent of requests receive a false “closed” message.
In response to the audit, city officials agreed to provide the customers’ details beyond saying the case is closed.