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electionlineWeekly — August 13, 2015

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

Providing a WOW experience for voters
Americans expect excellent customer service from shoe shopping to elections

By Matt Boehmer,  director
Federal Voting Assistance Program

To avoid sending my mother birthday flowers for the umpteenth year in a row, last year I decided to get her a really nice pair of shoes she’d been eyeing. She lives on the other side of the country, and of course, just like with the flowers, I waited until the last minute.

Boehmer2015 copyThe day before her birthday I went to the Zappos shoe website to place the order and braced myself to pay the high overnight delivery fee. To my very pleasant surprise, they waived the shipping fee in appreciation of my loyalty. She got the shoes and loved the welcome change from the expected flowers (much to my sibling’s vexation!).

Americans expect excellent customer service in every interaction in everyday experiences. They expect to find the product or information they need quickly, to be provided simple instructions on completing the task, and receive confirmation of its completion. This includes our military and overseas voters.

Wouldn’t it be great if they could get updates on their progress in the elections process – and even better - some additional information like the timeframe to expect their blank ballot? I truly feel we in the elections field need think of our voters as marketplace consumers and be a shoe company!

We’ve all heard of Zappos. As I can testify, they will take an order at midnight, and have it delivered the next day anywhere nationwide (sorry mom, it was a really busy day). They have an inordinate amount of products, for a variety of people – all at our fingertips.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, created the “WOW” philosophy – simply providing excellent customer service to everyone, every time. Once they delivered the WOW factor to their customers, they quickly dominated the online shoe market.

I read that their customer service center once had a call that lasted over eight hours.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we don’t help our voters already, or that we need to stay on the phone that long, but that we have a system of data in place to deliver a WOW experience and create customer satisfaction for life.

Why shouldn’t we give them the experience they now expect from other service providers?

According to a survey FVAP completed earlier this year, 67 percent of Active Duty personnel were not confident that their ballot would be counted during the 2014 election, and 35 percent thought the voting process was too hard or did not know how to get their ballot.

The election community is doing great things to reach our military and overseas voters, but there is always more we can do and challenges to overcome.

The way I see it, we have three distinct opportunities:

  1. Educate – show the voters how to complete their absentee vote, in simple steps, delivered right to them
  2. Collect customer service data to understand the voter’s experience
  3. Create customer service in systems so that information is pushed out to the voter

In the consumer product “brand” market, if you are unsatisfied with one brand, you have the ability to simply switch to another. In the case of military and overseas voting, there is no opportunity to switch brands.

If these citizens do not receive an acceptable level of assistance the probable likelihood is that they will say it’s too hard, and not vote at all.

The men and women who protect and serve our country and allow us to enjoy the freedoms that we do deserve the WOW experience. So – let’s be a shoe company!

*You can read more about FVAP’s research and initiatives at FVAP.gov.

(Matt Boehmer made these remarks as part of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's Election Data Summit that was held in Washington, D.C. August 12-13, 2015.)