3 Tipping Points in the Patron Experience  

Devin Meister

November 29, 2023

Discover how your parks and rec peers are approaching patron engagement.

It can’t go unnoticed. We’re all looking for ways to make things easier or more efficient, and that expectation certainly carries over to interactions with parks and recreation departments. That has everyone looking to the future. But as science fiction author William Ford Gibson stated, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” That certainly applies to the world of parks and recreation today, where leading departments are forging ahead with their offerings while many others are lagging.

To better understand where the industry is and what’s coming, we conducted a nationwide (and then some) survey. The results are not scientific, but they do offer clues to where things are headed, what patrons expect now, and what will be demanded in the future. Following are three observations from that effort that we see at tipping points. You can download the complete report here.

Parks and rec is picking up the pace in mobile.

1. Mobile On the Move

Uneven distribution of future technology is readily apparent in the mobile experience. A significant number of departments report having an app that is already well-integrated and adopted by their community – 10% state a mobile penetration rate of greater than 1 in 4. On the other side, almost half reported that they don’t have a mobile app. This could be due to cost, resources, or any number of variables, but we expect this number to change quickly. Where mobile apps are available, patrons use them, and they’ll become universally expected.

Parks and rec payment options are expanding

2. Digital Payments? Yes, And …

“They’ve got money but they don’t have Cash,” isn’t just a lyrical jab at Nashville anymore, it perfectly describes patrons across generations. Fewer people are using or even expecting to use cash, but beyond that, they’re moving away from bank payments altogether. The rise of non-bank payment options such as Google or Apple Pay set a new expectation for parks and rec departments. The good news is that there are benefits to the departments in accepting those payment methods as well.

Actionable data is at a premium for parks and rec departments.

3. The Data Is In. The Answers are Not.

As technology becomes more ubiquitous and appears in more interactions and touchpoints in the patron experience, departments are collecting more and more data. In theory, this should enable organizations to get a clear vision of their community needs for everything from current usage to planning future activities and programs. The reality is that the reporting component in many areas doesn’t deliver the insights required for many. Yet.

Evaluating the Patron Experience

There is a lot happening right now in parks and recreation, and it’s happening quickly. Leading departments are pulling patron expectations forward. Fortunately, the technology is there and accessible for departments of all sizes to take advantage and reap the benefits for both patrons and staff. Download a complimentary copy of the report, Elevating the Patron Experience – Tools and Strategies for Parks and Recreation Departments and take a survey to get your patron experience score.

Learn More About Vermont Systems Solutions in these areas.