Jonathan Winchester, chief executive of Shopper Anonymous UK, explains why improving turnout at the General Election involves implementing the same customer friendly ideals you should instil in a business
“Turnout at the UK’s General Election in 2010 was 65.1%, an increase on the previous election but still the third lowest since 1945, according to a House Of Commons document titled ‘Election Turnout’ and authored by Aliyah Dar.
“Internationally, the UK is ranked 16 out of 31 countries analysed in relation to turnout as a percentage of registered voters. Clearly, we need to improve our voting turnout.
“So, just as being customer friendly is critical to business performance, we asked our regional directors at Shopper Anonymous what their top pointers would be to make the General Election more customer friendly. They came up with some very interesting points.
“To illustrate this further, we’ve compared how making the election more customer-focused can be applied to your own business:
Make Polling Day a friendly affair
Ensure the volunteers who are responsible for checking your name off the list are friendly! A SMILE IS FREE! The whole process sometimes makes me feel like I am being forced to visit a head teacher for bad behaviour. Ensure the area is comfortable and accessible, or at least warm and dry. Every person at the polling station can surely use common manners and friendliness. Making it friendly will make it memorable for the right reasons. Add-ons or up-sells may be possible: have tea or coffee available for purchase; perhaps coincide the voting day with a fundraising event. What about including invitations for local events?
MAKE IT FRIENDLY. There’s no excuse for rudeness. And always look for the opportunity to up-sell. Remember body language is 80% of one-to-one communication skills.
Have Polling Day at the weekend
Countless children miss out on a day’s education because the schools are closed and used as polling booths. Well, not the whole school actually, just a classroom or two, or perhaps the gym. In addition, countless parents have to take the day off work to look after their children or pay for childminders. The total cost to the economy? In addition, the general public has to try and squeeze in a trip to the polling booth into their busy working day (if, in fact, they are able to work!) If the voters and their children are the customers, on a polling day the customers are already annoyed!
MAKE IT EASY! Make it easy for your customer and they will come back. Walk the customer journey; how easy is it to gain access to your business, to find information on the web? Is signage clear, etc..?
Use ANY polling booth
With technology as it is, why can’t we simply walk into ANY polling booth and vote? For the commuters, the many business people who travel daily or fly/train/drive to different parts of the country and the holidaymakers, registering in time for a postal vote is not always viable. Attending their local polling booth between 7am and 10pm is sometimes not possible. Surely we should be able to walk into any polling station with the correct ID and vote?
MAKE IT REALLY EASY! Make it really easy for your customer to buy from you. They will want to come back.
Make it local
Ask many voters the names of their local candidates and very few would name them all, if any. Most of us are saturated with the media attention focused on the party leaders but would we recognise our local candidates if we passed them in the street? Why doesn’t the village or town hall host a series of ‘meet and greet’ sessions where all candidates can be introduced, have the stage for several minutes and summarise their parties’ intentions? Several of these, held over different time frames, could access much of the local population and make the policies seem more relevant.
MAKE YOUR BUSINESS RELEVANT TO YOUR CUSTOMER. Keep a friendly and local presence – things that are relevant in London are not always relevant to rural Scotland. Network locally and really get to know your customers.
Educate our young
In 2010, only 51.8% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted – this was the lowest voting demographic. These age groups are our future homeowners and business people. They are the generation that will lead our country. Other than the media, and increasingly, social media, where do they get their exposure to the election from? Politics is taught as an A-Level subject for those who wish to study it, but the general secondary school curriculum is sadly lacking in political content. Perhaps a current affairs subject should be included in the general curriculum, which responds to pertinent events such as elections throughout the year? If our youth are not involved in making decisions on policies that will affect their lives now, how can they be expected to develop a social conscience?
MAKE SURE YOU APPEAL TO ALL AUDIENCES. If the younger demographic doesn’t walk in or buy from you, what can you do to make them feel welcome? Have you ever measured the demographics of your customer base? A quick exit survey can provide you with a wealth of information.
Is anyone paying attention to what figures were bandied about in previous elections and how they compare to the reality? Are there any clear documents outlining what our national deficit is? When we listen to the debates or policy summaries from all of the parties there is one common theme; they made fiscal promises they cannot keep. Some clear summaries outlining where the taxpayer’s hard-earned pound has gone or will go, broken down by localities would be welcomed by many. A summary that is visual, user-friendly and without judgement or prejudice would be a valuable aid in making decisions about who to entrust with your vote.
BE HONEST. There’s nothing more to say about this really – your credibility is essential. Be clear and transparent at all times with every customer you come into contact with.
(I was going to put this as number one but it would render the rest of this article redundant as most of the points mentioned would be fixed if we voted electronically). Logistically, the collection of all votes throughout the country is fraught with potential problems, it’s costly and time consuming. Do we really, in 2015, entrust the nation’s electoral outcome to thousands of hands manually passing a paper ballot slip the right way? How many margins for error can be counted along the route from voter’s pen to counting table? Voting electronically would save time, save money, increase the ‘turnout’ and inevitably draw in the 18-30-year-olds. Although security has always been cited as the reason why electronic voting couldn’t be considered a viable option, there are surely stable enough electronic platforms in existence in our technology-rich society. An app or an online portal would be so easy by comparison. Yes, the older demographic may be uncomfortable with this but the solution to assisting them would still be much cheaper than providing transport for them to reach their local polling booth.
MAKE IT REALLY, REALLY, REALLY EASY! Make it really easy for your customer – they will come back, they will love you for it and they will stay loyal to you always. Is it time you used technology to get your customer’s honest feedback? Get in touch with Shopper Anonymous, if you want to know how…
“Here are three ideas from Shopper Anonymous to make any polling day an eventful day for your colleagues too:
Hold an extra long lunch break – this will help staff find the time to vote and foster a feeling of loyalty (to you, not necessarily to a political party).
Link up with your local polling booth in some way – offer to take drinks to the volunteers. Or take a closer look at where the footfall will be. Get your BRAND out there. Remember it is your customers (and potential customers) who are putting a cross on the paper! For example, if you’re an optician offer ready readers!
Organise a sweepstake at work – the person with the closest estimate to the number of local votes wins a prize. Maybe a lunch out or a tour of parliament if you’re really keen, or perhaps just a chocolate bar…”