At the beginning of 2020 no one could have predicted how fundamentally constituent relationship management was going to change over the following months due to Covid 19. By late March all of our clients who were elected representatives [and indeed community managers working with nonprofit software] were calling us to ask, "How can I manage constituent services when I am not meeting people face-to-face?". Without town hall meetings, community events, door knocking and meeting people at their offices, it seemed impossible to manage constituent issues as they arose.
Without face-to-face interactions our clients were looking at losing their ability to get issues resolved for constituents effectively, they were likely to lose touch with what challenges constituents were facing, and they were not executing on their promise as elected officials to lead and to solve problems for the people they served.
However, these elected representatives showed their adaptability throughout 2020 and began to use our phone outreach capabilities to take the place of face-to-face interactions. They also began to use our caseworker functionality to triage and respond to individual issues directly. Here we will take a look at how constituent relationship management is being done in 2021 and what you can do to implement community software for your constituents.
So, how are constituent services are being delivered in 2021? There are four key trends to watch.
1. Dedicated constituent relationship management CRM
Without a CRM system designed specifically for constituent relationship management it will be hard to keep track of issues, tie them back to a specific constituent and follow up in a timely manner.
First things first, you need a CRM system that holds an individual voter’s record and history. From here it is ideal to have a mapped version of this CRM showing where each voter is and situates them by ward or district. Once this is in place you should have a way of tracking individual issues that come in from a voter, in other words the ability to set up a case file for each issue so it can be followed up on and resolved. This entire CRM system, of course, must be highly sensitive to data protection legislation and ensure consent is being captured from the citizen for their information to be processed bearing in mind this is often sensitive information.
A typical use case here would be: a member of the constituency team is made aware of an issue with a voter in their area, they then log that issue in the caseworker and resolve it for the citizen, the citizen is followed up with by email ideally to communicate the resolution, and finally, a record is kept of the case file assuming the citizen is happy for this to be held. This type of use case is one that clearly fulfils the mandate of constituent relationship management and is effective for constituents.
2. Mobile, intelligent triage
In the above use case it is not mentioned how that constituent issue was raised with the team member but it is clear that there are a variety of sources that you will need to monitor and be aware of. Face-to-face communication still happens and will increase again as we come out of Covid. Town halls, clinics, events, in-office, and simply all those conversations that happen in the community will produce casework if you can log it easily. Added to this are all the issues raised on social media or by email that need to be followed up on to identify the constituent in question definitely.
What has become obvious to CRM teams is that mobile tools are essential for logging issues that they come across face-to-face. The ability to look up your voters when you meet them and then input the issue so that it updates the central database is crucial. Equally, when a tweet or Facebook post raises an issue, you should be able to use the mobile app to not allow that issue fall through the cracks.
Intelligent triaging of constituent issues means capturing them in real-time and having the issue be assigned to a team member for follow up instantly. Mobile apps are helping to make constituency work more responsive, efficient and able to handle the challenges of Covid restrictions.
3. Proactive constituency relationship management
Where, pre-Covid, you and your team might have been happy to let the issues come to you, there is now an understanding that you need to be proactive in your approach for 2021. Again, mobile devices are the key technology in this. Constituency teams are asking their volunteers and supporters to log issues on their mobile app that they use to connect with their constituency database. Texting and telephone campaigns have been used very effectively to reach wide numbers of the electorate and check to see if they have issues that need to be addressed. This proactive approach is greatly appreciated by constituents and shows the elected rep is taking their mandate to lead and solve for their community seriously.
4. Constituent insights and intelligence
Doing the hard work of managing constituents issues is great but it is so much more rewarding when you can build insights and intelligence from it. Tracking the trending issues in your community is essential so make sure issues are logged and tagged by, for example, education, voter registration, healthcare access, etc. Secondly, you will want to see what channels are bringing in issues, doorsteps, social media, town halls, and so on. You will want to understand who is triaging and responding to issues and are they doing it quickly enough. Finally, you might be able to build a visual picture of your constituency with overlaid maps of key issues, most engaged electorate and other data points of interest. If you are doing your CRM work using software designed for constituencies, then these insights will be possible and will help you to grow your effectiveness.
Immediate actions you can take to improve constituent relationship management
1. Set up your constituency CRM and casework manager system.
2. Release your mobile canvassing app and casework app to all your team members and supporters so they can start to log issues anywhere, anytime.
3. Triage issues coming in on social media by responding to tweets, posts and attempting to identify the constituent in your database for issue logging and follow up by email.
4. Capture casework while out in the community at events, doorsteps and town halls.
5. Nominate one or more constituency managers to take responsibility for your casework management software.
6. Manage suggestions and input directly from the supporters themselves in your caseworker and build on the ground-level insight that they possess.
7. Be proactive by cutting segments of your constituents for direct outreach by phone or SMS
Remember to capture issues from your community and follow-up with them in a timely and efficient manner. Assign a case file to a team member and indicate a priority level so the casework can be processed quickly. Reply to the community member by email and resolve the issue for them.
Capture issues at local meetings, on doorsteps or even from social media. Each issue should be individually logged and recorded automatically so you are always on top of what your community needs. If you would like to talk constituent relationship management with us please use the link below and we would be happy to help.
Listening to our current users, we are aware that there can be an internal struggle of team management when it comes to organizing quickly. To get people out on doors, the back and forth over Whatsapp, Messenger, and (insert other apps here) can be endless. We aim to streamline this process for you with Ecanvasser. Now organizers can commit via the Walk app (their canvassing app!) and get notified in the run-up to the event so that they don’t forget. By building it into the door knocking process life has gotten a lot easier for campaign managers.