Flexibility Saves The Day At The DMV

DMV. The initials alone can evoke migraines. 

In New Jersey, the state where my car is registered, a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles is avoided at any cost. Digital platforms blessedly make it possible to perform some routine government processes online -- such as renewing a vehicle registration or paying a parking ticket. 

But there are times when you just have to grin, bear it and brace yourself to stand in line. Renewal of a handicapped parking placard is one of those things. 

Think of it: handicapped privileges are usually bestowed on people who can’t do things like stand in line at the DMV. Yet every three years the handicapped person must show up at the DMV to validate their condition, with a doctor’s note prescribing continuation of the service is required.

If this process weren’t in place, those without a permanent need for the concession might continue to use it. 



So it was with some trepidation that I brought my father to the DMV last week to renew. The paperwork was all completed and my father brought his larger walker — the one with the seat attached.

What could have been a nightmare, however, became a triumphant visit ,thanks to a DMV worker, Nate, who had the common sense to let my father jump to the front of the very long line to renew his permit. He looked at him, asked why is he here, and just did it instinctively. 

What’s more, the way he did it was so authoritative that not a soul complained about my father cutting the line. (That might be expected in many parts of the country, but this is New Jersey.) We were out in less than five minutes. Dad barely got to sit in his walker seat, but he was grinning at Nate the whole time. 

My father, who gravitates to the negative side of the best situations, was like a changed man. He thanked Nate profusely on the way out, and as we pulled away in the parking lot, he offered yet another big thumbs up to the government worker. He’s shared this story with everyone he sees since.

Empowering such flexible, improvisational thinking is essential to good customer service. In the travel industry, it means being able to upgrade without “having to speak to my manager.” In retail, it means allowing a product to be returned without the proper proof of purchase if is clearly something that was bought at the store or could have been. 

The antithesis of this is any requirement that employees “follow a script” in response to a given situation -- even if that script is clearly not relevant to the matter at hand. Nothing is more irritating, whether it be with a telephone customer service representative or a live chat operator. 

Are your people trained and rewarded to pivot for whatever the moment calls for?

1 comment about "Flexibility Saves The Day At The DMV".
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  1. Mark Van Patten from Retired, September 12, 2016 at 12:47 p.m.

    Costa Rica has designated lines for disabled, senior citizens, preggos, etc. Public and private facilities. 

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