When the Coral Gables City Clerk’s office wanted to find ways to reduce turnaround time and avoid costly overpayment refunds for business lien searches, they turned to a partner who they’d trusted for over a decade: Granicus. Working with the govService team, Coral Gables was able to create an online portal that reduced manhours, streamlined processes, and shortened the lien search process by three business days.
Coral Gables, FL
Going Above and Beyond to Save Time, Money During Lien Searches for Coral Gables, FL
Coral Gables faced a problem known by almost any city government: Processes that require working across multiple departments to complete. For City Clerk Billy Urquia, business lien searches were an inconvenient process that stuck out for reworking.
“We used to do the searches that would be handled by two different departments in two different buildings in the city,” he recalled. “And it was a completely in-person process. You would have to come to one department and pay in person. Then you would go step out of the building, go to a different department and pay again in person. Then you would get two different reports.”
The process wasn’t just inconvenient for citizens. Splitting the work between two departments not only led to delays, it also could create the potential for errors or incorrect information, according to Coral Gables Assistant City Clerk Desiree Liguori.
“You have to give one check to one department, one check for another department,” she said. “The two respective departments had no way of communicating other than calling or emailing each other. So no one knew if one had received a request or which address the other had.”
The lien search process was ripe for a digital change according to Liguori.
“It was an automatic choice for us,” she said. “That process didn't really make sense. So, let's try to make it clearer. Let's put it online.”
Managing a Paper-Heavy Process from Remote Locations During COVID
Collaboration That Grows an Idea Into Innovation
Urquia’s idea for an online lien search solution started with an interactive GIS database search that would’ve helped eliminate one of the early time-consuming steps of the business lien search process. But thanks to the automation abilities available in govService, Coral Gables was able to have a self-service portal created that not only checked valid addresses against GIS database information, but provided online payment options for fees that would otherwise require a trip to the city clerk’s office, and processing status information that saved staff time fielding calls.
It’s a solution that exceeded Urquia’s hopes.
“We would’ve been happy if we were able to let them look up the address, then afterwards have our staff call them back,” he said. “But we ended up with a much better solution that saves a lot of staff time, I don't have to waste time with those calls or the refunding or the postage with things along those lines.”
And while the portal has only been online for a few months, Liguori said that the impact of the new digital service is being felt by both citizens and staff.
“We've been getting really good feedback from the companies as well as the employees,” she said. “The customer gets notified once we've uploaded the documents, so they don’t have to call or email about the status of things. So that's some of the work away from the employees. It's just become more automated for both our side and for the customer.”
The centralization of information has also reduced the delays that came from having customers go between two offices, Liguori said, even though two different departments still process the information. The result of the new portal has also seen processing times be reduced by three business days, she added.
“What I've heard back from them is they're receiving fewer calls from the businesses,” she said. “They might get a call if a specific address is not appearing. But the calls about processing status or where to send money or status of refunds, it’s almost no communication with the business other than through the portal.”
Liguori said that the automation of the new portal also creates internal efficiencies for staff across two departments who might have previously lost cases in the shuffle between departments. With automated notification of requests and deadlines, staff can more easily keep cases prioritized.
“If a request was submitted and they haven't done it, it reminds them that in 24 hours, this request is due,” Liguori said. “It keeps them on track and I think that makes for a better relationship with the lien search process on both sides.”
The early success of the lien search portal has encouraged Urquia to look at other areas within Coral Gables’ processes that would benefit from digital automation.
“I’ll tell you, that process was so broken that it was easy to make a change and fix it,” he said. “Anything would’ve been a drastic improvement. But what the system allowed us to do was take that idea and make it a lot better. So the next step is to look at other aspects of our customers’ jobs and see where can start implementing solutions through the portal.”
A Time (and Money) Saving Self-Service Portal
Coral Gables knew who to turn to when it came to creating a digital solution. For more than a decade, Coral Gables has worked with Granicus using the govService, govDelivery, Legistar, and Boards and Commissions tools to help create efficiencies in their city government.
“Granicus is an industry leader and we find ourselves adapting the best practices that you've already implemented,” Urquia said. “And that grows out of a place of service, where our rep will say ‘What are your needs’ and ‘How can we serve you better?’ So it’s not only seeing the features that we could possibly implement, but how to get more out of the tools that we already have.”
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“We want to look at the processes where we say, ‘It didn't really make sense. Let's try to make it clearer.’ There are a lot of areas coming up where we can build into this new portal with govService.” – Desiree Liguori, Asst. City Clerk, Coral Gables, FL
Lien Searches have been processed through the system since March 1, 2021
Business Day reduction in Lien Search process
the length of time for each Lien Search, reduced from 20 minutes previously
- Billy Urquia, City Clerk, Coral Gables, FL
We started off with an idea for a solution. But with the platform that Granicus helped us implement, what we ended up with was so much better!"
collected in Lien Search Fees since portal launch
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A Long-Term Relationship Sparks Innovation
That relationship between Coral Gables and Granicus, he said, provides a level of trust when it comes time to find ideas for new solutions. And in this case, it was no different. From a modest idea, Urquia said, the solution to Coral Gables’ lien search needs exceeded his expectations.
“We started off with a basic idea, you can go back to the recordings and listen,” he laughed. “We said ‘Here’s what another city is doing. We like this and would like something similar.' And what we ended up with was so much better.”