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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.
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.