The Department of Motor Vehicles has been in the news recently, with a new website that’s reducing wait times. But this isn’t an isolated success story: DMV scores high on customer satisfaction and quality. Experts say they’ve unlocked one of the most important elements to service industry innovation – culture change.
The “department motor vehicles” has been renamed to the “Department of Motor Vehicles.” The DMV is no longer a bureaucratic purgatory.
The Atlantic published a story last month claiming that root canals were no longer painful. “Comedians in the 2020s will have to come up with a new technique to tell you how comparably excruciating it is to go to the DMV,” it stated.
Officials at the much-maligned department, on the other hand, believe that view is outdated as well: the Department of Motor Vehicles isn’t quite as horrible as it once was.
“With a genuine investment of time and money, states have been making a very concentrated effort to alter the experience and attempt to break down the stereotype,” said Ian Grossman, vice president of member services and public relations at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, or Aamva.
Upgraded computer systems have reduced wait times and even enabled drivers to avoid going to the DMV office entirely, according to agency officials.
Mr. Grossman believes that government-run DMVs are partially motivated by private-sector enterprises’ attention on customer service and the potential for cost savings.
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According to the California DMV’s director, Steve Gordon, the agency’s conversion to digital papers in December 2020 would save an estimated $2 million per year in hauling, handling, scanning, and disposing of material.
He also engaged consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to look at the agency’s consumer data and the separate playbooks of its 190 locations and consolidate them into one, according to the former Cisco Systems Inc. executive, who joined the post in July 2019.
Mr. Gordon said that the reorganization and clarification of job roles allowed the DMV to effectively double its capacity while keeping the same number of employees, reducing typical wait times from up to four hours in 2018 to an average of 30 minutes for walk-ins today—or 10 minutes for those with an appointment.
The majority of DMVs now provide online appointments and services, many of which were introduced during the epidemic. However, according to Aamva’s Mr. Grossman, these new systems were only achievable in recent years due to the replacement of outdated computer mainframes, many of which were decades old and created using a programming language that few programmers today understand.
The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles got $90 million in 2015 to upgrade its computer systems, which was finished in July. Oregonians may now do 24 chores, or “transactions,” online, up from six in March 2020, thanks to the upgraded infrastructure. It also enables clients to schedule appointments for the first time, avoiding the lunchtime and end-of-day queues that are typical of walk-ins, according to an agency spokeswoman.
A rendering of the innovation center that the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles plans to build in Albany next month. The DMV will utilize the facility to test new goods and services with customers before bringing them to the rest of the state.
New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
In 2018, Colorado completed its own system overhaul, allowing users to execute 45 transactions online. Customers may now conduct various DMV transactions outside of office and business hours thanks to the state’s installation of 52 DMV kiosks in public areas such as grocery shops.
According to Mike Dixon, senior director of Colorado’s Division of Motor Vehicles, the state aims to establish DMV2Go, a mobile office that can drive to clients who find it difficult to get to the DMV, such as those in remote rural regions.
New York has been modernizing its information technology system for many years, in part to finally end failures that have caused offices to close for “an hour or two,” according to Mark Schroeder, commissioner of the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. In the year 2020, it launched an upgrade of its whole technological infrastructure.
In the same year, the firm started developing digital goods alongside Alphabet Inc.’s Google. It most recently created an online walkthrough to assist clients understand which papers they should bring to the DMV in order to comply with the new REAL ID requirement. The ID may be used to board a domestic aircraft and get access to certain government buildings.
According to Director of Operations Joseph Crisafulli, the agency currently serves most consumers in less than 15 minutes; in early 2020, the typical wait time was 45 minutes.
Of course, not every consumer is happy. A quick search on Yelp reveals a slew of complaints about long waits, disorganization, and overall bad experiences at DMVs around the country. Although the new appointment system “keeps things going fast,” a November review of a Manhattan office observed that “the public bathroom clogs, so if you can avoid using it, it may spare you some humiliation.”
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The problem, according to Jenny Dempsey, a customer experience consultant in Southern California, isn’t so much wait times, which may still be lengthy in California, but rather the treatment consumers get from employees, who can be as obnoxious as ever.
“If the DMV adopted a culture of workers assisting people, the experience would substantially improve,” said Ms. Dempsey, who worked for the consumer website DMV.org from 2015 to 2017.
DMV officials claim that its employees are dedicated to enhancing the client experience. “They don’t want to be the punchline,” says Mr. Schroeder of New York.
In any event, his ultimate vision for the DMV looks more like a contemporary bank, with consumers able to complete most transactions online or at kiosks across the city, allowing office personnel to serve as customer advisors rather than gatekeepers.
New York state wants to build a “innovation center” at Albany’s Empire State Plaza in January 2022, where the Department of Motor Vehicles will test new goods and services.
Mr. Schroeder said, “It’ll look quite fantastic.” “People will come in and ask, ‘Wait a minute, am I at the DMV?’”
Katie Deighton can be reached at [email protected]
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