Drivers Want Simplicity, Convenience When Dealing with the DMV
Rick Holcomb, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, said the commonwealth’s DMV began its transformation to the digital age during the mid-1990s. Now, residents can get a text message to remind them to renew their plates, order a driver’s license renewal online and shop for custom plates at home. Holcomb said technology is helping to provide better and faster service for millions of Virginia’s drivers, all with fewer employees and a smaller budget than 20 years ago. Here are his tips on how to change your state’s DMV from a source of frustration to a real asset.
Recognize your customers are changing.
“Understand that today’s customer wants to be served at a time, place and in a manner convenient to them, not convenient to the government,” Holcomb said. “We know we can’t be the Starbucks of state government. We can’t have a DMV on every corner. … Investing in a virtual office is clearly the way to go.”
Move online as much as possible.
The Virginia DMV now offers 31 transactions—from renewing a driver’s license to renewing tags—that can be done online. This saves time for the customers and cash for the state. Holcomb said it costs $22.40 to renew a driver’s license in person, while it only costs $11.26 online. “Make sure that your virtual office is open 24-7, it’s easy to maneuver and you’ve got as many transactions as possible loaded,” he said. “Listen to your customers. See what other states are doing.”
Offer incentives for online transactions.
Some states charge an extra fee for renewing licenses online or for using a credit card. Not Virginia. Holcomb encourages credit card fee discounts. His office promotes the discounts: “Walk into a customer service office and it’s going to cost you $6 more to do your transaction. Get a $1 discount on the Web, then a $1 discount per year to renew your tags,” he said. Drivers also can renew the tags for three years online versus two years in an office. “Give them incentives; that’s clearly one thing that we learned,” he said.
Collaborate with other agencies and states.
Virginia’s DMV is offering more than just its services. Residents can apply for a hunting or fishing license while registering their boat. Through Virginia’s participation in the Electronic Verification of Vital Events project, the DMV can electronically access birth records from the 34 participating states if residents don’t have a paper copy of their birth certificate. Virginia residents even get a hard copy of their birth certificate mailed to them. “I think more and more, customers look at state government as one entity,” Holcomb said. “They’re very frustrated when they come in and you say, ‘Sorry, you’ve got to go down to this (other) agency.’”
Keep looking to the future.
“State governments need to catch up with what their customer base is demanding,” Holcomb said. His office will join the social media world in the next few months. “We’re missing out on communicating with the next generation of customers by not being able to get our message across in a way they find useful. States need to move ahead.”