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  • Writer's pictureMark Bromberg

Yes The DMV Can Be Worse

It does not matter which state in our country you live in, a guaranteed invitation for sympathy is to tell someone that you are headed to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The reason for your trip is irrelevant, just knowing that you are heading into that abyss warrants sympathy.

So what could make it worse? When you show up with all the documentation required and are told that they can’t help you because today their systems aren’t talking to other systems – so you have to come back and try (yes try) another day.

There is no arguing that the DMV serves an important purpose, which only makes the level of disorganization there even more surprising. After all you would think the 50 various DMV’s would able to share best practices with each other. But seeing how none appear to work well, that does not appear to be the case. I do not have the answer as to why the DMV is such a cluster, but during my last trip to an office of the IL DMV, I think I uncovered a significant part of the reason why. No backup processes.

I appreciate that the process of reviewing, verifying and recording all the relevant information needed for a state license or ID is an important task requiring many validation steps. I also understand that each step is critical and possibly involves input or approval from any number of different systems or agencies or databases. And I even accept that due to the number of steps, the process takes time.

I realized that the DMV does not have backup processes when I accompanied my Mother, who had recently moved to IL, to get a new license. While working with the staff to get her license, I we learned that if there was any type of hiccup in their workflow, they had no work around/backup processes in place to enable them to continue to serve the customer. So if the DMV systems are not able to synch with the computers at the Passport office to validate one’s passport, and hence one’s identification; the process simply stalls.

Now I appreciate how critical this particular step is, which made it even more surprising that they had no other option or backup system to keep the process moving. There was no help desk that could be called, nor were there other department with additional or different levels of access that a customer could be directed to for more hands on help. There was simply no options other than a suggested “come back another day and try again”.

Now it could be that the issue is with the Passport office, and perhaps it is the Passport office that does not offer another means of validation. That may be the case, but based on how totally surprised by the "glitch" the DMV staff was, and how totally unprepared for situations like this everyone from the front desk clerk to the shift manager was; I believe that the issue lies with the DMV not knowing what to do when a problem arises. Actually, they did offer two pieces of sage advice, both of which I believe prove my assumption. The first was the oh-so-helpful come back suggestion. The second was to “call the Passport office.” Note, they did not give us a number to reach a specific department within the Passport office. In fact they did not even provide the main number for the Passport office; they just suggested we find the general 800 number for the passport office online and call that.

I think it is safe to assume that my mother is not the first person who has had data validation issues at the DMV. So how is it that they have no idea how to handle this situation? Because they have no system in place to address things that do not follow the stated workflow nor have they trained their staff in how to effectively deal with variations from the norm. And like it or not, since we, their customers are a captured audience that cannot go to another supplier, we have no option other than to grumble but accept this inefficacy.

Unless you are like the DMV and offer a product or service that your clients/customers can literally find nowhere else; you had better have a system in place to address situations that vary from the norm. When your normal process breaks, which it will, does your staff know what to do, or do they simply come find you and leave the customer hanging while they search?

Your alternative solution(s) do not have to be elegant or efficient. They just need to get the job done to satisfy the immediate client/customer need until your normal systems and processes are working. A simple outline of who to call based on the type of issue and/or what to send to whom will suffice. Heck, even instructions to tell the customer you will call them back in 5 minutes so they do not have to wait on line waiting while you figure things out is better than nothing.

The important thing is that you have an alternative in place, and that your staff knows about it and knows that they have the authority to revert to it when necessary.

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