November 17, 2016

Election 2016 – Where VOC means Voice-of-the-Customer


Campaign strategies broke all the rules this year.  Pollsters could employ a broad range of tools to try to get a sense for the electorate’s leanings…but the true Voice-of-the-Citizen proved elusive in the big elections.

Candidates running for public office like to be able to back up claims that they hear their constituents loud and clear, but they typically have limited data to work with.  Well this year, we took the opportunity to work with a candidate in a local bay-area city council race whose platform was LISTENING ― listening to citizen input, listening to alternative solutions, and listening to civic goals.


The campaign strategy centered around the candidate’s “I LISTEN” message.  A key component of the strategy was conducting a survey so that the candidate could address the issues of interest to the most voters. This was a city council race with a small, shoestring budget. Of course a web survey was a cost-effective option…but this candidate also wanted to give folks a chance to really speak to him, so a phone-in option was also used to give people a chance to voice what was on their mind.


Assisting with the survey provided an opportunity to do real-world testing of technology that incorporates voice-to-text processing and analysis that we’ve been working on. For this initiative, we used IBM’s Watson to transcribe the responses of open-ended phone survey questions into text. While this was a small-scale application, the results were more than just interesting:

  • Adding PHONE, the candidate gathered 20% more responses.
  • Using IBM Watson transcription technology, the verbal answers to open-ended questions were quickly converted to text, analyzed, and acted upon.

As anyone who’s had to analyze open ended questions can attest, it’s like herding cats—there are so many directions things can go. But, the ability to quickly transcribe speech with a high degree of reliability and then use data analytics made delivering fast, actionable insight possible.

The resulting data provided significant insight. The issues that were top of mind of the citizens of the city were easily apparent using data visualization.



The significant outcomes of the survey were that

  • More voters were heard
  • It was possible to capture and analyze the true voice-of-the-citizen.
  • Demonstrated the potential of analyzing unstructured voice response to better determine voter sentiment.

As we continue on the path of integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) with voice-response surveys we’re convinced that Voice Is The New Data!

Mary McDougall, CEO