Aveus Partner, Linda Ireland, recently became a contributing author at Forbes.com with her first post, Do Republicans and Democrats have a customer experience problem? A timely post on Forbes.

ForbesWith the wall-to-wall media coverage around Monday night’s presidential debate and who is ahead of whom in the battleground states, I can’t help but look at our political parties through a customer-experience lens.

I think the answer is pretty simple: BOTH parties absolutely have a significant customer-experience problem. Here’s why:

Misalignment down both sides of the aisle. Neither party aligns its daily “operating decisions” (campaign decisions, messaging, etc.) with what “customers” (voters) value. What they really do is align those operating decisions with the mostly negative things to which they know likely voters will respond. Consider the negative snipes both parties use. They run those because they work.

As customers, “likely voters” are complicit in this challenge. We’ve all played a role in creating the beast – whether donkey or elephant. Voters say they value centrist and positive political parties, yet respond to negative messages and candidates. This is one of the toughest customer-experience challenges there is – solving a need that customers value having solved, even though they behave in opposition to what they say they value. (It’s similar to how we ignore healthcare organizations’ efforts to engage us in the healthy behaviors that would lower our healthcare costs and improve our lives.)

Over-leveraging customer relationships. Both parties assume that if you vote for one of their candidates then you will vote for that party across the board. Right? Think of Amazon and its strong recommendation engine. Amazon would never send me offers or even recommendations for everything in the store. But if I vote for or contribute to a single candidate, the parties treat me as if I want the platform and the whole roster of that party’s candidates (every “product” the party has to sell).

Failure to deliver an integrated customer experience. Both parties are guilty of this. For example, multiple candidates I support here in Minneapolis/St. Paul have sent me mailers and emails recently. For some of these candidates I am a prospect, for others a customer. But none of those candidates within that particular party are talking to one another, so I have overlapping and conflicting experiences. Businesses from Apple to USAA insurance to Mom and Pop on the corner share this challenge: Customers believe they have a single relationship with them no matter how many brands or products they buy. The parties each fail at this.

Any customer experience works when it solves a clearly defined need or problem or desire someone would trade something of value to solve. Yet neither party has clearly defined what it’s out to solve for loyal or engaged or target voters. Democrats rally around the mantra “we’re greater together than on our own” (but is that enough?). For Republicans, I’m not sure what it is. Just look at their web site—I see lists of issues but no underpinning purpose. We’re left with rhetoric, not clarity.

So, what can the Democrats and Republicans do to improve these customer experiences? Leaders, if you are reading: Clarify the need you each solve. Learn whether “customers” support a candidate, a platform or a party – and manage relationships accordingly. Integrate the experience across touch points. And instead of what we respond to emotionally, offer us what we value.

That’s my take. What do you think? What could the Democrats and Republicans do to improve the “customer experience” of each party?