It may be considered an off-year for most political observers, but in reality 2015 is a huge year for local elections across the country. Some 24 states are holding municipal elections this November and 55 of the largest 100 U.S. cities will elect a mayor and city council.
Candidates will spend countless hours campaigning to win this year, but getting “50-plus-1” on Election Day is nowhere near the end of the work. Transitioning into the role of an elected official and setting up a constituent service operation can be nearly as daunting as running for office. Constituent services are critical for newly elected officials and one the biggest short fallings for many of those who won’t manage to get reelected this year.
Running an effective constituent service operation is always going to require time and hard work, but there are few simple things that can ensure your office runs efficiently, tasks don’t fall through the cracks, and constituents leave happy. Whether you’re newly elected or a long-time officeholder, these 6 tips for running a top-notice constituent service office will help keep you and your constituents on great terms.
1. Log all interactions with constituents in your database
Whether it’s a phone call, email, or an office visit, every conversation or request for service should go straight into your database. This is critical when a constituent follows up on an issue. An intern, or the election official, should be able to quickly read through notes and be up-to-date on any previous request. Few things make a constituent angrier than having to resubmit their request and provide an explanation every time they call your office.
2. Allow constituents to request services on your website
Hopefully your city is using a tool like Spot Reporters or SeeClickFix. But if not, it’s easy enough to create a simple constituent service intake form on your website. The key to this is recording a tracking number in your database so you can quickly reference the request and anyone in your office can provide an update.
3. Follow-up with your constituents proactively
First of all, make sure to get an email and mobile number for every constituent who contacts your office. From there, set calendar follow-ups in your database with reminders to follow up on conversations, send updates, invites, etc. These simple reminders make it easy to be proactive and receiving proactive messages from your elected official is meaningful for constituents.
4. Send alerts via text message
This is why it’s so critical to get mobile numbers for every person who contacts your office: it allows you to build a text list. Text messages can be a great way to communicate service request updates and quickly distribute community alerts. Constituents will greatly appreciate a text that reminds them of street cleaning in their area, a school closing, local road repairs, or community emergencies.
5. Build an email list and segment it as much as possible
Email is the most affordable method of mass communication and it’s a great tool for keeping in touch with the community you were elected to represent. The key to making your email list even more useful is carefully segmenting it with tags. Using tags to segment your list will make it easy to identify those whom you’ve provided services, community leaders, businesses owners, and other groups, and then craft your messages specific to those audiences. The end result will be messages more relevant to the reader, an increase in your email open rates, and a boost in the action taken by those on the receiving end.
6. Engage your social networks
It’s almost impossible to find an elected official not on Facebook or Twitter these days, but few actually do much to engage their networks. It’s absolutely critical to get to know the social media influencers in your community. The best way to do that is by pulling your social media data into your database. This makes it easy to see the most clout-heavy social influencers in your community and recruit ambassadors to help you reach new people and push your messages out on social.
Running a constituent service office can be challenging and even overwhelming for newly-elected officials. But following these 6 simple tips will help you keep your office running smoothly and your constituents leaving happy.
Trevor Montgomery is a former constituent service office manager and a lead organizer at NationBuilder. He focuses on helping local elected officials use NationBuilder to launch and improve their constituent service operations. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.