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Polling offers new insight and new opportunities for growth—even when it’s not election season. When you poll a person or a group, you’re asking what they think about a particular event or product or service. Polling is a tool that can help a government agency like yours understand its client taxpayer base better. The ability to understand this group of people better will impact your ability to meet their needs, which ought to be among every responsible agency’s first priorities.Why polling matters
Polling originally began in politics in the early 1800’s, but it has changed many times since: First straw polls in newspapers, then face-to-face polling and telephone polling some years after that. These days online polling is the most popular venue. For the audience, all it takes is a couple clicks (seconds, really) to give their opinion and provide you, the agency, with valuable information.

For you, as an agency, polling implies transparency and a willingness to improve, which goes a long way for taxpayers who crave well-oiled agencies. Perhaps the best part is this: It’s quick and easy to implement.

How to plan a poll
A good poll is defined by the quality of its questions. Ask salient questions that do two things: Engage the client and provide meaningful data. Luckily for you, there are incredible question-rich resources within reach…your team! Here’s how to rope everyone in and begin:

  • Seek buy-in. Ask agency administrators what they think about the idea of polling. If they’re receptive to it, loop them into a brief meeting to explain that it’s a simple, fast and low-cost way to learn more about the people you serve—the taxpayers!
  • Meet regularly. Pending approval, encourage employees from across the agency to come together regularly to discuss polling questions and poll performance. Provide handy notebooks for everyone to do some brainstorming and keep track of ideas. If you’ve made the move to tablets, incentivize team participation with a tech-y gift like tablet case instead.
  • Formulate strong questions. Ask questions that get to the root of client needs and expectations, areas of satisfaction (and possible dissatisfaction) relating to the service you provide. Take time to read through questions as a group to ensure they’re not leading or biased.
  • Pick your poll’s home. Online polls make great additions to organization websites or blogs, in emails or e-newsletters and on social media outlets like Facebook®, Twitter® and LinkedIn®. In addition to an online poll, offer an on-site polling opportunity at your facility, too: Use countertop displays to tell people about it and give direction. Then, say thanks with a cool new [free!] pen.

How to use polling data
It’s one thing to ask questions, but it’s quite another to use the answers to those questions in a constructive way that builds your agency and grows its service population. Here’s how to do just that:

  • Collect data (and collect it well). Store polling data in a safe place and appoint organized individuals to archive it. Check in regularly to ensure they’re managing it well. Keep special USB keys as back up just for polling data.
  • Simplify the data; make changes. When you’ve distilled the data, bring the team together again to brainstorm next steps. What do you need to do in order to satisfy your client base? What kinds of changes can be made (if you’re going to make them) and how soon can those changes be made?
  • Talk about the change. Now that your client base has responded, tell them what you plan to do with their insight. Hopefully, you’re able to use it for good and make some progressive changes. Whether you use it or not, indicate that you’re thankful for their thoughts. Announce any big transitions via the Web and on-site with a banner in your waiting area or lobby. It’s exciting for people to find out change is coming, especially one they may have helped inspire!

Sure, online polling is about critical information and numbers, but mostly, polling is about people. Employ a little online polling to better understand your people. Then, enjoy the numbers that roll in at the end… the ones that indicate new growth! For more information, check out our latest Blue Paper®, podcast and infographic about Polling.

Gordon, Kim T. “Deep Insight Without Deep Pockets.” Entrepreneur.com, 27 Aug. 2007. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

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