When was the last time you paid your vehicle registration and had a pleasant experience? That is my frustration, that the number of state governments fail to address the needs of their citizens who pay annual fees for the privilege of driving. I want to share my observations and suggestions I have for the Virginia DMV (and other states) can improve customer service and do it cheaply.
The first thing that you do is enter the facility then wait in line for the Information Desk. This is where they vet out the folks who don’t have the right paperwork, provide paperwork for people, and issue the ticket. I can attest that the line on average takes a minimum of 45 minutes to stand and wait. Even if you just want to pay them, you wait just like the people who are applying for citizenship.
Next, you hope that you filled everything out correctly you wait even more. I estimated another 45 minutes goes by and it feels like the lottery when your ticket number is called. You gleefully go to the DMV representative. To your shock, one incorrect check box, one field not entered, one typo when transposing a 17-character VIN, or a form that you didn’t know about — you’re fucked. The only real incentive in going to the DMV, is to only go there once and never hassle with them again until next year.
The problem in this, is that I imagine DMV turns people away for rather minor reasons. The goal is not to help people, in fact, to treat customers so bad, they never come to you for assistance. In other words, just clock in, make it to the end of the day and clock out without any regard for the people they help. This form of customer service is detrimental to not only the people, but to the state as a whole. For some reason, people have come to accept poor customer service from a government entity; but can’t wait to jump on the chance to criticize businesses who do the same. (Word to the wise — I’m not saying it’s OK.)
Alright Joe, so you know it all, you fix the system. As I share my suggestions, understand that the DMV is a two-way street and it depends on customers who are motivated as well as the governments who employee their staff. (Nice pun and metaphor, I might add.)
- Remove the Information Desk and replace it with a touch-screen flow-based system. Seriously, give me the salary of one of these traffic-lights, and I’ll code the thing myself. This will allow users to read the information, select what they want, allows them to evaluate the required forms and documentation, and queue themselves in line. Note that when queued, they are issued a code which is tracked. (I’ll explain in bit, keep going…)
- Utilize sponsored TV programming. Nothing is worse when waiting in line than when you get to watch the clock tick. Many studies have shown that if you distract someone during a boring exercise, they are less apt to be upset. Why does this matter? Keep your citizens happy, and they just might make you happy. How many of us can recall a story in our DMV experience of “some guy” who was yelling at the DMV workers? Think of how upsetting that is for the employee as well as the time impact to everyone else as a result.
- Maximize technology to the best it can offer. While biometrics isn’t up to par, bar codes, and simple “online” accounts citizens can manage to link their assets together is mutually beneficial. Why issue licenses with a Bar code if it isn’t even adopted at the DMV? (I know, I know, age verification systems.) Enable citizens to pay their fees seamlessly via computerized terminals. The bottom line: make it easy to do the most complex tasks. Allow the users to exit from a flow, and elevate the concern to the DMV staff. Reward your computer users with fast processing time while not penalizing those who use the traditional processes.
- Revamp employee compensation into a profit mentality. We don’t just go to work to get the same paycheck, do we? We all aim high and like to provide the best for our lives. Introduce a bonus structure for the volume of customers handled, as well as the accuracy of the data. Deploy a coaching process and observation system for managers to help teach best practices to inexperienced employees. Implement a Quality Assurance construct where customers take a survey based on their experience (anonymous paid surveys) and DMV centers that have high performance and quality are given a higher bonus; where as lower performing ones aren’t.
- Regulate and manage in-state inspections. In case you didn’t know, in VA and several other states, inspections have to be done by private industry mechanics who are authorized by the state to do state-mandated “safety” inspections. This is a waste of time, money, and resources. The only reason why this is done, is so the shop owners pocket more money from unsuspecting people. The bottom-line: one price for everyone, and the revenue stays in-house.
- Remove unnecessary bureaucratic layers required. As much of a maze as DMV installations are, they don’t have to be. Trim redundancy, and revise policies where reasonable and just. That doesn’t mean add more hoops for someone to jump through, just cut the bullshit, collect your fees, issue their tags, title their cars and get out. I suggest the easiest thing that VA can do, is allow drivers to waive the mandatory safety inspection. Waive what? Exactly, just remove it because it’s not like the state is liable if someone neglects their vehicle. It is cautioned in the driver’s manual, as well as common sense that before accessing a roadway, you perform a brief visual inspection of your vehicle for tire pressure, leaks, or other problems.
- Employ customer service advocates in each satellite DMV office. Their job would be to observe the overall morale of employees, customers, and other internal staff and implement motivating campaigns to bring numbers up. They would earn bonuses on the aggregate of all satellite offices.
- Listen to customer feedback and allow for escalation processes. I imagine that many disgruntled customers are often the result of misinformation or confusion to the processes. The role of the customer service advocate is to reach out such customers and address concerns and issue priority tickets so they can get speedy service if warranted.
These are all great ideas, but how do they make money?
I return that question with, tell me one state government that operates in the green — or even within their allocated budget? […] Exactly. However, I intend to blur the lines of “profit generating” to “cost reduction.” Lower the costs by having to have less employees on the payroll, while still collecting the same (if not more) revenue via non-linear methods. As far as the employees, let attrition and inter-departmental promotions reduce the workforce.
I know that some of my ideas are reasonable and possible. What do you think: What suggestions do you have for YOUR DMV? Let me know in the comments. 🙂