Political Innovation: Embracing and Understanding Customer Service

Politics is a pursuit inherently built on customer service but without enough attention paid to those who matter the most: voters.

In politics, voters are the customers, and instead of asking for a refund or an exchange, they can vote the politician out of office.

So why isn’t voter relations one of the top priorities of a campaign? Campaigns should hire a Chief Voter Relations Officer to manage voter relations and develop an organization that is always striving for perfection. In that way, the organization would be actively embracing customer service as an asset, not a chore.

Voters are consumers, and they know what an honest customer service experience feels like. Customer service cannot be faked or forced; consumers are too smart for that, as many have experienced great customer service from companies like Amazon.com and Nordstrom, to name a couple.

The Chief Voter Relations Officer should build upon the customer service models that successful companies are using as a starting point. By embracing customer service in a campaign, politicians would be able to build an open and honest conversation with voters, all while building trust and managing expectations.

Innovation in Politics: Understanding and Appreciating the Voter

1. Respect the Voter.

Always assume voters are smarter and more technologically savvy than the campaign. Most individuals today live on their smartphones and are accustomed to Googling anything of interest.

2. Embrace Android and Google Now.

Apple’s iOS might be cool, but over 758,719,000 Android phones were sold globally in 2013, according to Gartner. That represents an astounding 78.4% market share of all smartphone sales. Apple, on the other hand, sold over 150,785,000 iPhones globally in 2013, according to Gartner, accounting for a 15.6% market share of all smartphone sales. By embracing Android, politicians would be able to leverage the important advantages of the Google Now platform and Google Card updates, as Google Now is natively built into Android. Hands-on, connected voters who are interested in each and everything related to the politician and the campaign would be able to get instant updates right on their Android phones in a frictionless way. With iOS, the voter would have to log into the Google app, creating friction.

3. Make it Easy to Communicate.

Voters today are fragmented and do not always open their mail on a regular basis and/or watch TV daily, but a huge number of voters are continuously connected to the Internet. This is a trend that I only see continuing and getting stronger as younger individuals prefer to text or chat via an app rather than pick up the phone and call a friend or a business, let alone a politician’s office. Politicians should understand this trend and embrace it, making their campaigns accessible via apps such as WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and Kik Messenger. In the coming years, voters will expect more two-way open access to elected officials in real-time, and by building out and embracing a mobile communications strategy, politicians will be able to directly communicate with voters.

4. Take Control of the Message.

Campaigns should focus on taking control of the message and communicating directly with the voters; they can do this by re-inventing the typical political website. Political websites of today are old, slow, and for the most part, broken. Harper Reed, who was the CTO for President Obama’s 2012 campaign, understood this and built BarackObama.com to be scalable and to tell a story. Harper understood the value of a site that loads fast and tells you what you want to know, without having to search for it. Organizing For America and Harper Reed successfully took control of the message and delivered a decisive victory.

5. Eliminate the Friction.

Make it simple and easy for a voter to contact, connect, donate and/or get the information they are looking for without having to wander and get frustrated. Keep the language in the voice of ordinary Americans. Enable every touch point of the campaign to be a wonderful, frictionless experience from the voter’s perspective. An email reply, a cordial “please,” and especially a “thank you” will go a long way on Election Day.
The above-mentioned ideas are key to the success of a victory on election night for the 2014 mid-term elections. While some of these ideas will translate to the 2016 presidential election, others will not.

This is why political campaigns and political organizations should embrace a strategy that has them looking into the future—without missing it. As Larry Page, Co-Founder & CEO of Google, recently said during a recent TED talk, “The main thing that has caused companies to fail, in my view, is that they missed the future.”

New communication platforms have the ability to assist politicians in building more open two-way communication channels with their constituents, which will lead to a stronger bond between the voter and the politician. It is this bond that could make the difference on Election Day.

One means to this end? Political organizations should consider enrolling their executives in the new MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Platform Strategy: Building and Thriving in a Vibrant Ecosystem. During the two-day course, executives will learn more about the ideas mentioned in this article and how to develop and implement a winning platform strategy. Two days of in-depth, hands-on learning will help executives in political organizations approach new technologies and platforms—and not miss the future.

Political Innovation: Embracing and Understanding Customer Service is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on The MIT Sloan Executive Education [email protected]™ Blog.