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As the political world begins to turn its attention to the next cycle, plenty of campaigns that found themselves on the losing side of a close contest this election year are still asking themselves what they could have done differently. In cases where the margin was just hundreds of votes, it’s a frustrating inquiry.
Consultants often determine the culprit was message, organization, funding or even the candidate. But it can be as simple as the campaign’s phones program.
As 2016 switched into GOTV mode in the final weeks, campaigns all over the country ramped up their calling operations. They had multiple solutions for their volunteers and paid staffers. Two such solutions are mobile calling apps and predictive dialer systems. Both increase the speed at which volunteers or staff can call potential voters.
This summer, our firm launched a mobile campaign calling app, TenMoreVotes (TMV), which seeks to decentralize the call center or phone bank experience with an app that volunteers and staff can launch from their smartphones. The app provides the caller with a one-click step to place a call while the screen displays voter demographics and a call script. After the call is placed the user enters the results directly into the app.
As we discussed our calling solution with campaign folks, a number of them talked about the competing predictive dialer systems. Predictive dialing systems attempt to maximize the efficiency of call centers by using dialer technology that places multiple calls at the same time, and routes the call to a volunteer or staffer.
It’s an established technology, and certainly has its proponents. But we’d like to make the case here for going with a mobile app.
We see the system as having three key advantages over both paper-based and predictive-dialer set ups. For starters, it’s more efficient than a manual phone bank. Call time, especially with volunteers, is a precious commodity. The faster those volunteers can call, the better voter contacts you’re going to make.
Going the app route can also reduce costs. One big expense when setting up a phone bank is the phones themselves. Either cellphones need to be purchased or landlines installed. Through our app, there’s no need for the campaign to buy cell phones, computers, or paper based supplies for the operation.
Another big plus is that unlike predictive dialers, mobile app systems provide the ability to call cell phones. Federal regulation prevents auto-dialers from calling cells, which has hindered everything from phone banking to polling.
Moreover, dialer technology can be expensive and complex, requiring extensive training to use and administer. The app route is designed to eliminate the drudgery of data entry.
Ultimately, it’s not really an “either/or” choice when it comes to mobile calling apps and predictive dialers. Both calling solutions take advantage of advancing technology to improve on typical phone bank operations, and each is an important tool in any campaign’s arsenal. But what we learned in 2016 is that every vote counts, and using an app could help your campaign squeeze out a few more votes on Election Day.
Eric Hogensen is a Southern California based political consultant with nearly two decades of experience serving candidate campaigns and progressive organizations both locally and nationally.
Kelly Brunson is an Austin, Texas based technology entrepreneur with a diverse background in mobile development, data analytics, and corporate finance, and is a Chartered Financial Analyst charter holder.