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How Xplor Recreation Reshaped the City of Pearland’s Parks & Recreation Department

City of Pearland Texas recreation software case study with Xplor Recreation header image

Their Background

Just south of Houston lies the vibrant City of Pearland, home to over 126,000 residents. The city's parks and recreation department proudly oversee two member-based facilities and a public nature center. Offering an array of programs, including seasonal activities, swim lessons, and summer camps, the recreation center caters to over 5,300 active members, while the senior center serves 800.

Andre Walker, the Customer Service Supervisor for the City of Pearland, began his journey as a part-time recreation attendant, dedicating the past 14 years to the community's success. In his current role, he intimately understands the organization's critical software needs, particularly after stepping into the lead role of in-house recreation management software expert following the departure of his predecessor.

In 2021, after facing growing frustrations with their recreation software vendor and seeing no resolutions ahead, the City of Pearland had enough and decided to look for a new software partner to support its organization's primary goal of providing better service to its customers.

andre walker city of pearland recreation software case study


Featured Quote:

“Before [switching], we used to spend a lot of time guiding people on how to use our online experience. If anyone has issues, I’m the one who deals with their complaints and help them – and I used to get a lot of complaints with [our previous software]. I don’t get those complaints anymore.” - Andre Walker - City of Pearland, Texas

Their Challenges

For over two decades, the City of Pearland relied on their original recreation management software platform. In fact, they were one of the first agencies in the United States to implement the software.

However, the company behind the software changed hands, and support for the platform ceased, leaving long-time users like the Pearland team with a difficult choice: transition to their vendor’s new offering or seek alternatives.

In 2015, Pearland opted to transition to their former provider's latest solution. Unfortunately, the new system failed to meet Pearland's needs, leading to six years of mounting frustrations until they reached a breaking point.

 

Key Challenges Included:

 

Poor Customer Experience:

Pearland's commitment to enhancing member and staff experiences clashed with the clunky interface of their previous recreation management software. This was a big factor that led them to explore new alternatives.

"One of the big challenges with [our previous software] was the unintuitive online experience for customers. Giving our customers an easy, seamless online experience is really important to us. We’re constantly working on making our web experience better. We really didn’t like that their online portal didn’t allow us to embed it directly on our site and the clunky experience wasn’t what we wanted for our customers."

 

Limited and Inaccurate Reporting:

Reporting limitations and challenges with their previous provider were other driving factors in their decision to switch. Producing seemingly simple reports was always a big ordeal, and to make matters worse, the reports often produced inaccurate results.

"We had a lot of challenges with creating the reports we needed and customizing them. They did have an add-on feature that had some additional functionality, but we still needed better reports. We also kept running into issues with data inconsistencies and missing information."

 

Lack of Facility Booking Capabilities:

As a result of their previous platform’s facility booking limitations, the Pearland team had to spend a lot of time manually dealing with booking challenges. They didn’t have the intuitive functionality they needed to support this crucial arm of their parks and recreation operations.

"Facility rentals are a huge revenue driver for us, and we needed better functionality to improve the experience for our staff and community members.

 

For example, being able to reserve facilities without immediate payment was a big challenge. Having the ability to make requests without immediate payment and allowing them to go through an approval process was crucial for our operations."

 

Prohibitive Software Costs:

While the software subscription cost of their previous provider seemed reasonable on paper, things started to add up once transaction fees and costly in-house merchant fees came through. Additionally, their previous provider offered add-on features to address some of the limitations in the software, but these features were not only expensive but also failed to fully resolve the challenges Pearland was facing.

"The monthly cost of the software wasn't too bad, but things really added up because of transaction fees and the payment processing fees. We had to use their in-house payment processor, which was very expensive! Also, there were all sorts of add-ons we could pay extra for to help with some of the feature gaps, like reporting, but they were really expensive and didn’t fully solve our problems anyway."

As these challenges continued to stack up, negatively impacting both their community members and staff, Pearland realized they could no longer let clunky software get in the way of their success. This realization marked a critical turning point for the Pearland team – leading them to search for a new recreation management software partner.

Their Solution

The City of Pearland began their search for a technology solution that addressed the ongoing software challenges they were facing and would also help support their operations' growth.

"Recognizing the need for a tailored approach, we conducted a comprehensive internal evaluation with our finance team, contract team, and other key stakeholders. We implemented a rigorous and in-depth scoring process to ensure due diligence and maintain transparency. Throughout this process, we sought to engage multiple potential vendors and gather extensive feedback, ensuring that our decision was made in the best interest of the city and its residents.”

As part of their in-depth explorations, they wanted to ensure their next software partner would provide:

  • Streamlined, easy-to-use software for their staff members
  • A modern and intuitive self-service experience for their community members across all devices
  • A custom-branded mobile app to engage members directly from their smartphones
  • Powerful, accurate, and easy-to-generate reporting functionality
  • More robust and comprehensive facility booking capabilities
  • Responsive and effective customer support services

In evaluating their options for a new recreation management software partner, Xplor Recreation stood out from the outset, but they continued their thorough investigation to ensure fairness to the 3 other vendors and that they were checking all the boxes when it came to doing their due diligence.

"We had a strong feeling we’d pick you even before we went through our evaluation process, but it’s a big decision and we wanted to be sure we did our due diligence and made it fair for all our potential partners"

Ultimately, their intuition proved correct, as Xplor Recreation emerged as the clear winner at the end of their extensive evaluation process.

Xplor Recreation case study book a demo graphic

Their Results

By switching to Xplor Recreation, the City of Pearland team has been able to address all the challenges they were facing with their previous provider, significantly improve their staff and customer experience, and accelerate their COVID19 revenue recovery.

Xplor Recreation team visits City of Pearland, Texas

 

Key Benefits Experienced:

 

Accelerated Revenue Recovery:

After experiencing a significant loss of members due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, the City of Pearland has rebounded and is meeting revenue expectations for memberships. Andre credits Xplor Recreation’s user-friendly platform for playing a big part in helping them bounce back from the pandemic.

"Like everyone else, we got hit very hard by the pandemic and lost a huge group of our members at the time. It took us a very long time to finally start meeting our revenue expectations. Xplor Recreation has been a massive help in making this possible because it makes it so much easier for our community members to engage with our offerings.”

 

Improved Customer Experience:

Xplor Recreation's modern and intuitive self-service experience improved the overall customer experience for Pearland's community members – helping the Pearland team achieve its goals of providing a best-in-class user experience for its customers. The online registration experience has also helped significantly reduce the time Andre spends helping customers overcome their self-serve challenges and frustrations.

"One of the things we love most about Xplor Recreation is the online experience. It’s much more modern and easier to use, and we really like the fact that we can embed the online portal directly onto our site for a seamless user experience.

 

Before [switching], we used to spend a lot of time guiding people on how to use our online portal. If anyone has issues, I’m the one who deals with their complaints and helps them – and I used to get a lot of complaints with [our previous software]. I don’t get those complaints anymore. From time to time, some members of our active adult community reach out for assistance, particularly those who are new to using their cell phones for various tasks. To address these requests, I've developed video guides that have proven to be very effective in helping them navigate these scenarios."

 

Accurate, Fast, and Easy-to-Generate Reporting:

The City of Pearland faced a lot of challenges when it came to their previous platform’s reporting capabilities. Since switching to Xplor Recreation, they’ve been able to save significant amounts of time producing reports and can rest easy knowing that the data is accurate.

The City of Pearland experienced an organizational shift as they were able to significantly reduce report generation time from 2 to 3 days to just 5 to 10 minutes by using Xplor Recreation’s frictionless software. This improvement allows for quicker reimbursement submissions and more efficient reporting on member usage for programs like Renew Active.

“Being able to easily create custom reports for whatever we need is a big win for us. An example of this I can share is that we partner with a program that requires us to produce utilization reports on a regular basis. It used to take our staff about 2 to 3 days to get the info they needed out of our system and over to the partner platform.

 

Since moving to Xplor Recreation, I can get that same report in about 5 minutes instead of multiple days. I actually wrote a memo to our leadership team about this. This is one of the biggest benefits for me personally, because at any given time I could get a request from council about a report they need ‘yesterday’ and I can easily spin up what they need.”

 

Responsive and Effective Customer Support:

Since switching to Xplor Recreation, Andre and the Pearland team can rest easy knowing that they’ll get quick and effective responses to their customer support inquiries, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Monthly calls with the account management team allow Pearland to stay in the know on how to maximize the platform's utility and adopt new functionality. This proactive approach ensures that Pearland remains informed about the software's capabilities and can leverage them effectively to support their growth.

“Overall, I’m much happier with the customer support I get from Xplor Recreation than [our previous vendor]. Over the years, I've developed some great relationships with the support staff. They remember and we’ve been able to establish a rapport. All of the staff do a good job of communicating updates on support cases.

 

The account management team members that I’ve worked with have all been extremely helpful. Alyssa and Cassandra left a great impression on us. The account managers I’ve worked with have always been responsive and provide solutions, unlike [our previous software provider]."

 

Intuitive Facility Booking Features:

Xplor Recreation's software allows Pearland to implement a safety mechanism by enabling community members to tentatively book facilities without making a payment upfront. This feature reduces the risk of booking errors, minimizes the time spent by the Pearland team managing incorrect bookings, and provides their community members with a better customer experience.

“The facility booking functionality is a game changer for us. Now we can allow community members to tentatively book a facility without paying upfront. We used to have to spend a ton of time dealing with facilities that were booked incorrectly.

 

Another thing that's huge for us is the fact that you can automatically send contracts for signature and have them stored on the customer’s account. It’s way better experience for both our customers and staff.”

 

Improved Operational Efficiencies:

Xplor Recreation's user-friendly interface allowed the City of Pearland team to easily manage the software transition by ridding them of cumbersome and manual processes they had to deal with in their previous platform. It’s also helped them streamline their internal processes and unlock operational efficiencies - allowing them to focus on what’s most important to them: their community members.

“[Xplor recreation]’s been so much more efficient for our staff and it’s much easier to use. Our staff is able to take advantage of more features which has helped us be more effective in gaining members and retaining them. It's been really easy for our staff to learn, and the self-guided training system has been really helpful for onboarding new staff.

 

Overall, it’s much easier to manage our community members’ accounts because everything is system-generated. We don’t have to constantly go through cumbersome, manual processes like we did with [our previous software]. The software has even helped us to change and make improvements to some of our business practices and procedures - allowing us to really focus on providing a better customer experience.”

 

Better Software at a Fraction of the Cost

Enjoying rich features doesn’t mean a hefty price tag thanks to Xplor Recreation. With its affordable and budget-friendly pricing, the City of Pearland now uses world-class recreation management software without breaking the bank. This capability marks a significant departure from their previous vendor, which would’ve charged them a premium for inferior functionality.

“We’re saving a lot of money overall now that we are using Xplor Recreation and we’re getting features we’d have to pay add-on fees for with [our previous software]. The merchant fees were really high too, so we’ve saved a lot of money there as well. Now that we’ve switched to Xplor Pay, we’re saving even more on our processing fees.”

As our conversation was coming to an end, we asked Andre if he would recommend Xplor Recreation to other parks and recreation agencies – his response?

Absolutely.