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The City of Ocala

Transition to a More Modern, Easy-To-Use Recreation Management Platform.

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Quick Facts

The City of Ocala, nestled in Florida, sought to enhance its Parks and Recreation Division, led by John N. Spencer. With over 64,000 residents and a broad range of recreational activities, the city aimed to streamline operations and provide better services.

To achieve their goals, they transitioned from their long-standing recreation management software platform to Xplor Recreation. The journey encompassed several key phases:

1. Challenges Faced:

The existing software posed significant challenges, including limitations in payment processing, complicated interfaces, customer communication limitations, inefficient in-person registration workflows, and integration difficulties. In addition to these unaddressed, ongoing issues the City of Ocala was approaching their contract renewal and decided it was time to explore better solutions.

2. Evaluation Process

To find a more efficient recreation management platform, the City of Ocala narrowed their search to two contenders: Xplor Recreation and another industry veteran. Not only did Xplor Recreation tick all the boxes, but it was also a more cost-effective choice - offering a sleek and user-friendly interface, streamlined program management, efficient in-person processes, improved customer communication functionality, and better reporting.

3. Transition Process

Switching from a longstanding software platform raised concerns. But, despite the initial hesitation, the transition to Xplor Recreation was seamless for the Ocala staff. The user-friendly interface made it easy for staff to adapt and manage tasks seamlessly. Many users were able to use the software without any guidance.

4. Benefits of Xplor Recreation:

The software's user-friendliness and modern interface simplified tasks for staff and patrons, reducing steps and time spent on day-to-day tasks – most notably, when it came to program management and program registration. Since implementing Xplor Recreation, the City of Ocala witnessed significant improvements in their Parks and Recreation operations. Xplor Recreation's stability also translated to fewer issues and less frequent contact with account managers.

Featured Quote:

“It’s like going from an old Nokia Brick Phone to a Smart Phone. The Nokia still does the basic things you need it to do, but the quality and user experience isn’t there. The world has evolved and so have people’s expectations. We were stuck in the past when it came to serving our staff and patrons. So, we decided it was time to ditch the 90s Nokia Phone and get ourselves onto something more modern, fluid, and innovative.”
John N. Spencer
Parks and Recreation Division Head
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Their Story

Nestled in the heart of the sunshine state, the City of Ocala, FL is home to a bustling community of over 64,000 residents.

Spearheading the Parks and Recreation Division is John N. Spencer, a seasoned parks and rec professional who’s dedicated 25 years to improving the lives of members in his community.

The City of Ocala prides itself on offering a diverse array of over 290 recreational activities and programs, boasting eight facilities with rentable rooms and an additional 24 picturesque parks, some featuring pavilions available for rent.

The City's dedicated workforce includes 50-60 full-time individuals year-round and increases by 40-45 seasonal staff during the summer months.

With a goal of streamlining their Parks & Rec operations and providing better service to their community members, The City of Ocala knew they needed an upgrade from their long-standing recreation software solution in favor of a more modern, robust recreation management solution; Xplor Recreation!

Technology has evolved, patrons’ expectations have changed, and [our previous software platform] hasn’t innovated the way Xplor Recreation has. Our contract was coming up, which would lock us into another 5 years – which is a long time when it comes to technology and how fast it changes.

John N. Spencer
Parks and Recreation Division Head
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Their Challenges

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The City of Ocala had been using their original parks and recreation software for over a decade, well before John Spencer had even joined the team.

However, with their contract renewal looming and mounting frustrations with a number of issues that were going unaddressed, the City of Ocala knew it was time to consider other options for their recreation management software solution.

As we approached the end of our contract, we knew there were better options out there to make life easier for our staff and give our patrons a better experience – so, we decided to explore them.
John N. Spencer
Parks and Recreation Division Head

Some Key Challenges Included:

1. Payment Processing Functionality Limitations

The City of Ocala felt stuck using their current software’s payment processing services and equipment, which left much to be desired. The functionality was very limited, complicated to use, and an increasingly significant hassle for their staff and patrons.

"While it could do basic things like process payments online, it was complicated to use for our customers, not as simple or modern as a typical online shopping experience our community members have become accustomed to and couldn’t do a lot of things like contactless payments."

 

2. Staff and Patron User Experience

Overall, their previous platform wasn’t user-friendly for their staff or the patrons that they served. Most processes were tedious and required too many steps, which were compounded by compatibility issues across devices and browsers.

"[our previous software] didn’t play well across different types of devices or browsers and was nowhere near as modern and easy to use as other software out there. For example, one of the many challenges our patrons ran into frequently with online registration was that they would have to go through something like four steps to clear their shopping cart. Not at all the online shopping experience people have become accustomed to."

 

3. Communication Challenges

Basic communication with program registrants and community members was no walk in the park either, affecting the team's ability to support and build stronger relationships with their patrons.

"With [our previous platform], something as simple as sending messages to participants who registered for an activity was difficult to do. You could do it, but not as easily as you would with Xplor Recreation."

 

4. Inefficient In-Person Registration

Managing in-person registration and check-in processes was laborious and created bottlenecks for the Ocala front desk staff.

"The in-person process was challenging to manage with our previous software. When entering someone into our system, getting their photo taken and uploaded to the platform was a multi-step process. But, with Xplor Recreation, the entire process can be done in two to three minutes."

 

5. Reporting Functionality and Integration

John highlighted their previous system’s reporting functionality and integration gaps as a key pain point for the Ocala team.

"We weren’t able to integrate our reports into Munis. We had to print out contact lists and have our team manually enter details into Munis 1-by-1."

Their Solution

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In their hunt for a more modern and efficient recreation management platform, the City of Ocala narrowed their search to two software providers: Xplor Recreation and another prominent vendor who has been servicing the industry for 25+ years.

Their comprehensive evaluation process involved multiple key staff members, leading them to select Xplor Recreation.

Xplor Recreation checked all the requirement boxes when it came to selecting a new recreation management platform at a fraction of the cost of the other contender.
John N. Spencer
Parks and Recreation Division Head

Key Factors in Their Decision Included:

1. User-Friendly Interface

The software's modern and user-friendly interface was highly appealing to their staff and expected to be well-received by community members

2. Streamlined Program Management

Xplor Recreation simplified program management, making it easier for staff to create and manage programs and for patrons to register online.

3. Efficient In-Person Processes

The City appreciated the efficiency Xplor Recreation brought to their in-person registration and check-in processes.

4. Improved Communication

The software offered robust communication functionality, making tasks like sending messages to participants more accessible.

5. Better Reporting

Xplor Recreation provided improved reporting capabilities and allowed for seamless integration with Munis.

6. Cost Effectiveness

John pointed out that Xplor Recreation offered all the required features at a fraction of the cost of the runner-up.

Their Implementation Experience

Deciding to make the switch from a long-standing software platform to a brand-new platform in Xplor Recreation naturally raised concerns among the City of Ocala's staff. While it was clear there was plenty of data to justify replacing their current software, the Ocala team had the same understandable concerns you’d expect with anyone looking to switch platforms – especially, one that that had been in place for over a decade.

People are hesitant when it comes to change. It’s the inherited nature of Humans. Naturally, we were asking ourselves - ‘is this going to work? Is it going to solve our problems? Will things be as seamless as we expect them to be?’

The answers to John’s questions: Yes. Yes. And yes!

Shortly after finishing the transition, John was quick to share his positive feedback on the experience:

Everything went very smoothly with the onboarding process, and the [Xplor] team worked very closely with me and the IT team to get everything set up as seamlessly as possible (despite a hurricane during the implementation process).

And when asked how his staff members managed with the transition between platforms, John had this to say:

With [Xplor Recreation], a lot of our staff were able to just figure things out on their own without any guidance. The user interface on the back end is very intuitive and lets people get in there and get stuff done easily. It’s just so much easier to manage tasks like building new programs and adding facility booking options. Having everything online and tied together saves us so much time.

 

Their Results

Since implementing Xplor Recreation, the City of Ocala has experienced significant improvements in various aspects of their Parks and Recreation operations. Program management and registration have been the standout benefits for both staff and patrons.

On the backend, it’s a lot easier for our staff to create and manage programs in the system and the online registration experience is way better for our patrons.

As John deliberated, he couldn't shake the benefits of Xplor Recreation. Common but crucial phrases like "user-friendly" and "contemporary interface" echoed in his mind. With clear advantages for facility management and rentals as well as equipment bookings, Xplor Recreation's appeal was undeniable.

All the processes we manage in our recreation software are very simple and straightforward for most folks – for both staff and patrons. Everything is just quicker and easier to do and can be done in way fewer steps. For example, being able to automatically send facility booking contracts to our patrons and get their e-signatures is a huge time saver for us.” When asked about how the experience has been for the patrons of Ocala, John said “I’d have to look back at some of our surveys, but the feedback has been good overall. It’s a lot easier to use and the user interface is just so much better. The other day I saw a father of three enroll all his kids in a program in a matter of minutes. It would have taken him way longer with [our previous software] and required more steps.

Another benefit John called out was Xplor Recreation’s stability:

We had monthly calls scheduled with our Account Managers, but I asked that we move them to bi-monthly because things just run so smoothly [on Xplor recreation]. We don’t need to talk every month because there aren’t issues to deal with in the first place. With [our previous software platform], we weren’t dealing with daily issues – but we’d run into some pretty big challenges every once in a while.

John wrapped up his summary of what he loves most about partnering with Xplor Recreation by sharing following analogy:

It’s like going from an old Nokia Brick Phone to a Smart Phone. The Nokia still does the basic things you need it to do, but the quality and user experience isn’t there. The world has evolved and so have people’s expectations. Technology has evolved, patrons’ expectations have changed, and [our previous software platform] hasn’t innovated the way Xplor Recreation has.  So, we decided it was time to ditch the 90s Nokia Phone and get ourselves on something more modern, fluid, and innovative.

 

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