An Award-winning Survey Platform for Online Public Engagement

Dave Biggs, Chief Engagement Officer, MetroQuest Software

Successful startups are founded by people who are truly passionate about what they do. One such startup is MetroQuest. A digital public engagement pioneer, MetroQuest is changing the expectations of the public for an easy and convenient online option for providing input.

An interview conducted between Insights Success and Dave Biggs — Chief Engagement Officer sheds light on how MetroQuest has made its way to become North America’s award-winning online public engagement solution for urban and transportation planning.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Give us a brief overview of MetroQuest, its vision, and its journey since inception.

Since the first meeting in 1993 as grad students at the University of British Columbia, Mike Walsh and I have been obsessing about community engagement technology. In 1997, we founded Envision Sustainability Tools, a software firm devoted to providing the most effective online public engagement solution for urban and transportation planning.

In the early days, our team ran public meetings and set up polling keypads connected to custom software. As the Internet grew in popularity, we were the first to develop a web-based public engagement software that broadens community outreach, marking the birth of MetroQuest’s current SaaS offering.

Today, our team serves DOTs, MPOs, local planning and transportation organizations across North America. We’re dedicated to perfecting the art and science of great public engagement and helping public entities deliver delightful public engagement experiences online so they can obtain actionable input and make important planning decisions that truly reflect the needs of the communities they serve.

Please list the popular solutions that make your company standout from the competition.

MetroQuest is the only online public engagement software that is designed to optimize community input and gathers important data that help plans get approved faster. Our delightful surveys are designed to engage thousands of residents across a broad demographic, educate the public about important planning choices and tradeoffs, and collect quantifiable and actionable input to give decision-makers the confidence they need to make critical investment and planning decisions.

Our software supplies a variety of screen templates that agencies and firms can use to build customized, interactive online surveys. Planners can gather public input on visual preferences, scenarios, tradeoffs, priorities, or budgeting to meet their unique project needs. Features such as the Map Marker or Budget Allocation Screens have built-in gamification and education that allows the end-user to intuitively learn about complicated elements of planning and apply their input in an informed and organized way.

MetroQuest makes online public engagement fast, fun, educational, and interactive to ensure diverse participation and collect survey results that are actionable. Our software can also support multiple languages and is compatible with any device — laptops, tablets, smartphones, and kiosks.

As a business leader, what is your opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on Computer Software & Public Engagement software in general?

COVID-19 is having a significant impact on the public engagement landscape. I believe that events in 2020 created a perfect storm for public engagement and pushed planning to new heights. Agencies and firms were forced to establish new protocols for effective community engagement in our new normal, without public meetings.

I think this shift helped unveil to many that there are key advantages that digital tools have over traditional methods to public engagement. This provided the public engagement industry with a unique opportunity to shine a light on online tools and how their software can be leveraged to achieve exceptional results, during COVID-19 and beyond. Based on the success that agencies are now having with MetroQuest and the changing expectations of the public for an easy and convenient online option for providing input, it’s likely that online engagement is here to stay.

What is your opinion on the necessity for businesses to align their offerings with newer technological developments, especially when it comes to SaaS and data processes?

Today’s progression of technology is remarkable, but the rate at which it’s evolving can be daunting for any business. Advancements and trends change day-to-day so it’s unlikely that any business can align their offering with the latest and greatest technological development. It’s also unwise to chase the new shiny technology without a solid business case.

MetroQuest has remained a leader by keeping the goals of customers top of mind with regard to technology improvements. If new technology will help our customers you can rest assured that we’ll be all over it. We are a very results-driven organization and that focus has served us extremely well and we have happy and loyal clients to show for it.

In your opinion, what could be the future of Software Planning post the COVID-19 pandemic? And how are you strategizing MetroQuest operations for that future?

The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed a dramatic shift in public engagement. To maintain the momentum of public projects and achieve the mandates of community engagement, agencies and firms were forced to adopt online tools and methods to achieve safe and effective community engagement virtually. Some have achieved outstanding community engagement results by developing expertise and utilizing the tools best suited for public engagement on a wider scale. As agencies have been forced to rapidly adapt to online community engagement, they quickly discover that we are the leader in this space.

We have spoken to many of our customers and industry contacts, and the majority agree that these changes were long overdue and virtual public engagement is here to stay. The online tools and strategies that many have recently adopted allow for greater reach into communities, bypassing some of the typical barriers to engagement that planners and public engagement professionals often face. This includes reaching hard-to-reach or traditionally underrepresented communities, through utilizing online engagement opportunities such as MetroQuest surveys, virtual townhall meetings or recordings, and even leaning on community groups to reach deeper into targeted demographics.

For MetroQuest, this both changes a lot, and very little. We expect to see increased interest in our offering as more agencies begin their online engagement journeys. We are having wider-reaching conversations as the industry, together, explores how widespread virtual public participation will impact civic engagement, and how we approach designing our cities moving forward.

How do you envision sustaining your company’s competency in a cutthroat and volatile world of business? Where do you see your company in the next five years?

Sustainable competitive advantage is key to any business’ success. We’ve built genuine relationships with our customers and facilitate ongoing conversations with them to develop a strong understanding of what is needed from a planning point of view and how community engagement is evolving.

Our development team is always analyzing our software and looking for ways to improve it. We’ve developed several iterations to our classic, award-winning survey solution to match what our customers are telling us and to stay relevant in the industry.

We care deeply about our customer’s success and have an incredible support team that stands by our customers every step of their online engagement journey. With one-on-one onboarding, unlimited email support and survey consultation calls, and 24/7 access to our support website and training videos, our customers can expect the best customer service and highest level of support in the industry.

We also have an excellent, high performing team that is built on open and honest communication, mutual support, and collaboration, making us more efficient, creative, and competitive. Every team member plays a vital role in our business and we place high importance on fostering strong leadership and team building to help sustain our company’s competency.

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