In July 2022, the City of Richmond launched MyBusiness, an innovative online business licence service. MyBusiness streamlines the business licencing process through an online self-service option that provides existing and new business owners with the convenience of applying for, updating and renewing their licences online without having to visit City Hall in person.
MyBusiness is a new tool on the City's MyRichmond platform, a portal for accessing City services in one place, with one password. The technology enables the City to shift from a services-centric focus to a customer-centred focus to better serve Richmond's residents, businesses, employees and visitors. This reimagined business process empowers customers to control their experience, while leveraging technology that allows City staff to focus on higher value, more complex tasks - resulting in more efficient and effective service to City businesses.
- Investment attraction and business retention. Among the first fully digital business licencing systems in the Metro Vancouver region (which includes 21 municipalities, one electoral area, and one treaty First Nation), the City of Richmond's MyBusiness gained over 3,000 customers in the first six months of implementation. This significant uptake reflects both time and money saved by businesses â€“ key at any time, and especially during the current economic challenges. Offering a digital business licencing option, along with other digital services, further strengthens Richmond's business climate - helping the city to attract new businesses and retain existing businesses.
- Streamlined process for businesses. MyBusiness is an innovative solution to streamlining the business licencing process. Previously, the City had multiple versions of business licence applications for different types of licences, such as those for Richmond Night Market and Inter-Municipal Business Licences, and additional supporting documents were required for mobile food vending and Bed and Breakfast licences. These application forms were housed on separate webpages on the City's website. MyBusiness now streamlines the application for all types of business licences in a single portal. This simplifies and clarifies the process for businesses, making it quicker and easier for them to find what they need.
- Improved collaboration. The planning and implementation process of MyBusiness was, and continues to be, a significant collaborative effort across multiple City staff teams, including Economic Development, Business Improvement, Customer Service, Information Technology, Business Licencing, Bylaws, and Finance. Through the phases of design, planning, and implementation, there has been increased inter-departmental communication in which successes, concerns, and improvement needs from businesses are shared. This allows for greater efficiency and success in developing business solutions to better serve the community.
- Sustainability. Another key benefit of MyBusiness is a reduced need to print and mail out paper notices, thus lowering paper waste and saving on physical mailing costs. If businesses choose to use MyBusiness, they receive email notices moving forward and will no longer receive paper notices.
This project is replicable and transferrable to other municipalities, and the lessons learned can also be applied to other initiatives within the City of Richmond. Other municipalities are also able to digitize services in the ways that best serve their community needs, and as many move in that direction, the City of Richmond is happy to share our journey and the lessons learned through our process. Within the City of Richmond, the success of MyBusiness is a stepping stone for future digitization of other services, such as those related to various building and development permit types.
Lessons learned from the MyBusiness project include:
- User testing. The City conducted three user testing sessions with businesses prior to launch, during which they were provided various user scenarios, and then it was observed how they navigated through the system. Direct feedback from these businesses as well as the observations as to how the customer interpreted the digital interface, visuals and wording in MyBusiness, was very valuable. The City used the information from these sessions to make final changes and add further clarification for users prior to the launch of MyBusiness.
- Promoting learning. Building on the goal of being more customer-centric, the City's Customer Service staff offer to walk customers through how to use MyBusiness when they come to City Hall for business licence services. This approach has helped customers to feel more comfortable with the new digital option, remove learning barriers, and improve accessibility for a greater number of users/ businesses in the community.
- Technology adoption. The City created a series of explanatory videos about how to perform the key tasks on MyBusiness, and these are posted on the City's website. Adoption of new technology takes time and effort, and Customer Service has been able to refer customers to these videos to help them navigate the MyBusiness process more easily. This approach helps to lower the barrier for new users to adopt the digital option.