When municipalities implement ReCollect, they often ask the same question: “What’s the best way to promote the app to our residents? And how will we know which communication tactics are working and which ones aren’t?”
Jamie Shockley, Strategic Communications Analyst for the City of Olathe, Kansas, set out to answer these questions by using analytics to measure the impact of their ReCollect promotions. The numbers gave her such a clear success story that just three months after the app first launched, her report landed her in front of a delighted City Council.
In this case study, Jamie explains the benefits and successes of ReCollect along with the promotional tactics the City used to successfully promote the ReCollect app to their residents.
Olathe, Kansas, has about 130,000 residents and the City ranks high on lists of the best medium-sized cities to live in in the United States. But, before ReCollect, their waste management wasn’t as effective as it could be. For one thing, residents found the waste collection calendar hard to understand
“In Olathe, we have three holidays per year that changed the collection schedule, and we also only collect recycling every other week. Before we began using ReCollect, there was a lot of customer confusion regarding when their recycling would be picked up and what day their trash would be collected after a holiday,” said Jamie. The printed waste collection calendar showed all twelve months in the year, and customers were assigned a red or blue colour coded pick-up schedule to follow. “Our print calendar doesn’t really tell residents that their collection is going to be pushed back one day after a holiday unless they read the tiny paragraph at the top. But nobody reads the paragraph,” sighed Jamie.
ReCollect made this kind of communication with residents easier, so Jamie began by walking her City Council through how the app worked. “One thing that we wanted to get across to our City Council is that we could send reminders in a variety of formats, and so there’s a way to send a reminder in a way that meets most everyone’s preferences, whether that’s a phone call or an email or a text, Twitter notification, anything like that. And we wanted to show them the benefits of ReCollect to the city.”
ReCollect’s customized calendar option meant the City would be able to reduce customer confusion about collection schedules, just by offering customers the option to print their individual schedules. “And one of our favourite features of ReCollect is the campaign and messaging component, which allows us to provide timely and relevant information to our residents,” added Jamie “We used the campaign feature to promote our waste diversion rate for 2013, as well as our household hazardous waste collection events that we have every month. There are also a lot of holidays that don’t affect trash collection schedules—so we
use that feature to say ‘Hey, President’s Day is Monday but your trash collection schedule doesn’t change.’ It’s just one other tool that we use can to let people know to still put their trash carts out.”
Another feature Jamie was excited to show City Council was ReCollect’s emergency and service disruption notifications. “A lot of our residents don’t want weekly reminders, they don’t need weekly reminders (because) they’ve been putting their trash carts out on the curb on the same day for thirty years. But they would like to know if their collection schedule is delayed, and ReCollect enables us to communicate with these residents as well—so that’s one feature we really like,” Jamie stated. “So if trash collection is delayed for snow, for example, we can message that out immediately to our residents.
But the biggest draw for Jamie’s team? “This is definitely the best part for us—and very beneficial as we promoted ReCollect—it enabled us to be very intentional with our marketing efforts and to see the resulting impact that each communication tool had on the analytics.” Jamie realized that by checking in on ReCollect’s analytics dashboard every time they did outreach for the app, whether through social media or in their print newsletter, they could determine which promotions customers were reacting to, and where to best invest their budget. Getting initial buy-in from the team to try ReCollect wasn’t hard. “Well, I think it would have been if we were asking a lot out of people to launch this,” explained Jamie. “But ReCollect came to our communications manager, who brought me in on the demo. And then we kind of were sold on it, so we took it to our solid waste group and told them ‘this is a way better way to do things than the way we’re currently doing them.’ We were behind it, we wanted to do this, it was a fun thing in our eyes…so we were kind of willing to take it under our wing and own it. It was reasonably priced, and we weren’t asking for a ton of work from people. I basically did all the promotional stuff with the help of our communications manager, who was greatly involved. Because we weren’t asking for a ton of work from people, it was relatively easy to launch and get off the ground.”
And so, three months later, Jamie found herself standing in front of her City Council. She wanted to help the Council understand what the analytics were saying, so she started by walking them through what they had done to promote ReCollect.
She reminded them that while the app had launched in September, at that point they hadn’t been ready to start promoting it, so November 22 ended up being their official launch date. They branded the app Trash Day, with the tagline “Never miss it again.” The City made a short video about the app for YouTube. “The day we did that video was like the best day of my job,” laughed Jamie.
But aside from that, they kept the launch day activities simple. “The first thing we did to promote ReCollect was a press release, a post on Facebook, and our promotional video was included in the press release and on Facebook. As a result of this, the number of addresses searched increased 369%, signups for active reminders increased 887% and app downloads increased 651%.”
In addition, the City received an ad credit on Twitter, so they decided to use it for Trash Day just to see what would happen. The ad got them 55 new followers, 262 clicks and 4,026 impressions, and their app downloads increased by 18%. “So without spending any money, we were able to increase our Twitter followers as well. This increase in Twitter followers, while small, was also free, so I would still say it was useful.”
Encouraged by their online success, Jamie’s team then experimented with more traditional, offline tactics, starting with a sticky note campaign. “We made sticky notes, and for one week stuck them on every single trash cart in Olathe. We have a little over 37,000 households. We actually thought this would be our most effective communication tool. It wasn’t, which was pretty surprising, but it was still very effective. During the week the sticky notes were distributed, the number of address searches increased 122%, signups for active reminders increased 289%, and mobile downloads increased 310%.” When Jamie looked at their real time activity, she saw a huge spike in the number of address searches that began when they started their campaign. In other words, ReCollect’s analytics tools helped Jamie’s team better understand the value of other tools they were using to talk to residents, and it helped the city see the value of them too.
Unexpectedly for Jamie, their most effective communication tool turned out to be their print newsletter. “The City of Olathe does a quarterly Citizen Satisfaction survey, and every time it tells us that our citizens’ number one source for city information is the Olathe Link newsletter,” said Jamie. “About 92% of our residents tell us that.” But the newsletter is expensive to produce, and it goes out to all residents six times a year.
“We’ve never really been able to measure the effectiveness of the content we put in that newsletter to see if anyone’s taking action on it. But with ReCollect we were able to see the huge spike in downloads of the app and addresses searched right when we promoted this in the Link.”
The newsletter arrived in mailboxes on December 26, and right away they saw a major jump in activity. “Almost 480 addresses were searched in one hour,” remembered Jamie.“As a result of this, we saw the number of addresses searched increase 110%, signups for active reminders increased 89%, and app downloads increased 87%. That,” said Jamie, “was a really cool story to tell our council and city leaders about the value of mailing out our newsletter six times a year, even though it’s really expensive— that’s how people are getting their information and that’s how best we can communicate with them. I know a lot of cities have gone to just e-newsletters, but we wouldn’t reach the amount of people we reach if we did that. Using ReCollect’s analytics is the first thing we’ve ever had that can really demonstrate the value of that expense. And our council loved seeing that.” Although, said Jamie, “They loved ReCollect and the service even before they knew about the numbers and the analytics.”
**UPDATE** The numbers have continued to go up since that presentation, she reported. “Right now, we’re at 11,487 (40,056) addresses searched, reminders are at 5,566 (19.721) and mobile app installations were at 5,358 (16,049). So almost one in three of our addresses in Olathe have been searched, one in six reminders set up, and one in seven of our customers have downloaded the mobile app. We’re really, really happy with the results we’ve had so far, and we hope it continues to climb.”
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