Iowa City Shines with Citizen Request Management Tech

Justin Gough
11.05.23 04:39 PM Comment(s)

The City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa Improves Customer Service with Connect and Elements XS

The largest corn processing city in the world and the second largest city in the state of Iowa has found success with new customer service technology. The “MyCR” program at Cedar Rapids offers an innovative way for citizens to report issues and stay informed while ensuring internal accountability with measurable results. 


The technology backing the innovative MyCR program is built around the Novotx products Connect and Elements XS, alongside Esri’s ArcGIS system.  The text below describes their experience, as originally reported by the International City / County Management Association in this article.


The City of Cedar Rapids has found success implementing MyCR, a custom Citizen Request Management System (CRMS) built around three core pillars of technology: Elements XS, Connect, and Esri’s ArcGIS system.


Citizens can submit requests through a dedicated mobile app or online through the city’s website. Requests are then processed, work is completed, and automated status updates are provided along the way, providing a better experience for citizens, measurable performance increases, and improved accountability for city staff.


Aligning Vision and Core Values

In 2019 the vision began with the city’s core values: serving enthusiastically, teaming up, and finding a way. The city sent a survey to residents and used that data to identify three customer service goals that aligned with those values:


  • Serving enthusiastically by ensuring our services are inclusive and easy to access.
  • Teaming up to build a culture focused on effectively serving our customers.
  • Finding a way to continuously improve the effectiveness of our customer service.

The initial focus was directed toward employee culture. The city had been building a customer service mentality for years and it was important to build on that mentality moving forward.

To help drive the initiative, an ‘innovation team’ was created, consisting of customer service champions within different divisions around the city to reinforce internal commitment to quality customer service. The team ultimately concluded that the implementation of a Citizen Request Management System (CRMS) would be the best way to improve internal tracking, reporting, and metrics, while making services more accessible for residents.

Finding the Right Tools

After evaluating technology options and must-have features, it was ultimately decided that Novotx’s Connect product would serve as the underlying backbone for incoming requests and citizen interaction. Surrounding the Connect product would be a native app, several map deployments using Esri’s ArcGIS technology, and a seamless integration with Novotx’s Elements XS asset management system.


While evaluating desired features and options for the new CRMS, a few must-haves were defined:


  • A universal storing house with consistent processes and expectations for addressing customer requests.
  • Methods to utilize data and feedback from customers to improve internal processes.
  • Integration with Elements XS, the city’s existing asset management system


By implementing Connect as the underlying technology platform for the CRMS, the city not only received their must-haves but a few unique features that improve the experience for city staff and citizens alike. A few of the key features found in the MyCR program include:

Automatic emails: Registered users receive automatic confirmation emails when the system receives their request. They also receive emails any time there is an update to the status of their request. Each email includes the appropriate department’s contact information. For processes that tend to take longer to resolve (i.e., nuisance issues involving court proceedings), the automated message includes expected timelines and additional details. These automated messages save staff time while also improving the feedback loop for customers.

Messaging through the system: Residents and staff can interact with each other through the system’s inbox feature. This reduces the need for email and phone correspondence. All message history is tied to each request, including internal-only notes and comments, which is helpful when a request needs to be routed through several departments.

Ease of getting started: Clear visual icons depicting concern categories are arranged by topic/category rather than by responsible department. This takes the guesswork out of the equation, so residents do not need to know which department typically handles various request types before filling out a report. A convenient search option makes it easy to start filing a concern based upon keyword or topic.

GPS integration: A mapping feature can quickly locate a resident at the location of their concern, using the GPS embedded in their mobile device.

Option to remain anonymous: Residents can remain anonymous, which is not commonly allowed by other municipalities utilizing a CRMS. Although the city does recommend users register in order to receive the full benefits of the system, they recognize a need to provide this anonymous option.

Citizen request map: Users can view a citizen request map on the My CR home page. This map includes recently reported concerns within the system, with halos around the category icons marking their status (pending, in-progress, and completed). Residents who wish to remain anonymous can use this as a tool to track their requests.

The Launch

Within just a few short months of launch, the system had already helped the city identify customer service delivery pain points. The city is now able to focus on key data-driven improvements that can be made. As new divisions at the city are onboarded and the integrated systems continue to expand, benefits of these data-driven opportunities for growth and improvement continue to be realized. 


The Numbers

In the first six months after launch, more than 10,000 requests were logged and tracked. Comparatively, in the previous full year, a total of 6,900 citizen requests were logged.

To help departments monitor the request activity within the system, dashboards and reports were created. The data can be broken down by division and filtered by date. Some key data from a typical dashboard includes:

  • Number of total requests in the system.
  • Number of requests by status type: pending, in progress, on hold, and completed.
  • Number of requests closed within the last 30 days.
  • Most common request types.
  • Average days to request completion.

All managers have the ability to run detailed reports and data is reviewed at least weekly.

Sharing the Story

The city quickly realized that a key to success would be sharing improved customer service stories. This would not only help this new CRMS gain traction with citizens, but would likely encourage employees to use the system more effectively as well. In addition to classroom-style training, it took real world user experience for the success of the platform to sink in. Customer satisfaction with this new tool has driven employee trust in the product, which in turn has improved customer delight and additional user adoption.


Proof in the Pudding

The numbers are good, internal staff are excited, and the future looks bright for this new tech at Cedar Rapids. As great as that sounds, nothing rings more true than the brutally honest feedback of an end user submitting a request and putting the technology to the test. Just a few of the comments related to the new MyCR program include:

  • “I have used My CR three times. In every case, the concern was handled promptly and professionally. I really like this way of reaching out to the city.”
  • “I think My CR is an excellent way to ask a question, report a concern, etc.”
  • “I reported a dangerous pothole and it was taken care of quickly.”
  • “I filed a complaint about trash dumped in the street—it was resolved within a few hours.”
  • “The app was easy to use.”
  • “Fast action!”


The city points out that this is a major improvement in Cedar Rapids’ customer service delivery. Improved responsiveness, request turnaround, tracking, communication, and buy-in have all been critical ingredients in their recipe for success and the future is looking bright.


About Cedar Rapids

Known as the City of Five Seasons for the extra time you’ll find in the city to enjoy each season; enough extra time for a fifth season, Cedar Rapids hosts a population nearing 150,000 and is the 2nd largest city in Iowa. Visit for more information.



About Connect

Connect is a flexible civic engagement platform created by Novotx, designed to seamlessly integrated with the Elements XS asset management platform.

Visit for more information.

Justin Gough