How IVR could have Prevented the 2020 Iowa Caucus Breakdown

In the wake of the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucus, it seems that no matter where you turn people are frustrated. The root of this frustration revolves around technology. The general outline of the situation is that party officials created an app for reporting voting results. However, the app failed somewhere along the line and its output didn’t match the input. As a safety valve, the party had local officials call in results, but there weren’t enough phone lines and people ended up waiting a long time. Voters, party organizers, candidates, news outlets, and many more ended up extremely frustrated with the course of events.

In short, the channels used for transmitting information failed when they mattered most. The moral of the story here for businesses everywhere does not involve politics, it involves planning.

An App Isn’t Enough

It’s cliché nowadays to say, ‘there’s an app for that’ because application development is ubiquitous across industries. While a custom app may bring with it a number of benefits, when it comes to transmitting critical information having a reliable option should be of paramount importance.

To that end, organizers appear to have recognized the need for a backup plan. However, this is where the planning starts to come unraveled. Party officials didn’t seem to anticipate the volume of phone calls that their backup plan would require. They lacked enough phone lines to field all the incoming calls and created a bottleneck in the entire process.

IVR Could Have Helped

Organizers identified the right backup channel–voice–but where they erred is with how to use it. The benefit of voice is that it’s instantaneous and reliable. However, without proper planning, it can lead to what happened the night of the caucus. Instead of relying on one-to-one telephone connections, they should have utilized an IVR application to automate the collection of information. Utilizing a cloud IVR platform that can scale in real-time with call volume demands would have enabled all precincts to call in their results at the same time.

IVR applications can integrate with backend databases as well. That means that organizers could have selected a more reliable system for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data on the backend and fed information directly into it from the IVR application. The result would have been real-time collection and analysis of caucus results. An IVR app would have eliminated the hours-long logjam that consisted of triage, diagnosis, and repair of a digital application that failed at a critical point in time.

The voice channel is a great backup to ‘sexier’ digital options, but remember to ensure that your voice channel can handle every potential issue rather than a select few. IVR gives you the flexibility and reliability to deliver results when speed, time, accuracy, and transparency matter.

To learn more about building custom IVR applications that are reliable and can automate complex processes over the phone, check out Plum DEV.