Capitol Alert

DMV auditors found simple ways to give you a better visit: credit cards, tablets and texts

This is what an audit of the California DMV found

California’s DMV failed to implement Real ID and wait times swelled in part because of a reactive culture, poor planning and outdated technology, an audit says.
Up Next
California’s DMV failed to implement Real ID and wait times swelled in part because of a reactive culture, poor planning and outdated technology, an audit says.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles will spend the next two months working to resolve a number issues uncovered in a Finance Department audit that castigated the department for a “reactive culture that has adversely impacted the field office customer experience.”

The 67-page report is full of recommendations, some of which might resonate with anyone who has spent an afternoon waiting for a DMV appointment.

Here are five ways the audit says the DMV can create a better experience for its customers:

Show up to work

The DMV’s absenteeism rate is 82 percent higher than the statewide average, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly a third of service windows are closed during business hours, forcing employees to work overtime as customers wait longer.

To address the problem, auditors want the DMV to “design weekly field office employee schedules to ensure all field office windows are open and serving customers during business hours.”

The report also recommends the DMV consider extending business hours. Instead of requiring workers to stay longer, the DMV could also offer additional alternative work week schedules or part-time positions.

A previous audit found that one DMV worker slept on the job three hours a day for three years.

Let waiting customers leave

The audit recommends some basic customer service tactics that popular restaurants commonly use to temper expectations at busy times.

For instance, few DMV offices are making consistent use of text message alerts. Undercover auditors visited 30 DMV offices, and just two offered text message alerts.

Auditors noted that letting customers check in and leave a DMV office could make for a more pleasant experience than sitting under the florescent lights of a government office for hours.

“Offering customers text messaging notifications and allowing them to experience their DMV wait in areas other than field offices could have a positive impact on the customer experience. DMV should offer all customers text message notifications,” the audit says.

Redesign offices

Auditors noted that the DMV could benefit from a customer-first mindset when it designs the field offices that Californians visit when they went to renew a license, take a test or register a vehicle.

They found confusing layouts and signage directing customers to appointment, non-appointment, driver license, or vehicle registration pre-queue lines.” Simply put, customers didn’t know where to go at the office because the DMV gave them bad directions.

They recommended “DMV should evaluate field office layouts and signage to ensure information is visible, understandable, and helpful in directing customers.”

About that technology

DMV employees labor with outdated technology that makes their more difficult than it needs to be. In fact, half of the audit focuses on how the DMV can improve its information systems.

Customers won’t see that back-end work, but they might notice a few front-office technology upgrades that the audit recommends.

For instance, the DMV could start accepting credit cards at field offices. Gov. Gavin Newsom called for that change in his January budget address. The audit reiterated his recommendation.

You also could see more DMV workers using tablets if the department follows the audit’s recommendations. Workers could use the tablets to greet customers and quickly tell them whether they have the right paperwork for their appointments.

Train the workers

The DMV responded to a wait time crisis last summer 2018 with new and emergency hires. But a lot of employees reported they had not received proper training.

At 15 field offices where auditors interviewed employees and reviewed relevant training records, more than 20 percent of those responsible for completing customers transactions hadn’t attended a driver license or vehicle registration training session.

The Finance Department’s solution is simple: “DMV should timely send new field office employees to training before they are expected to assist customers.”

Field office managers explained some employees had not yet been trained because of the cost and time lost associated with sending them. But without the proper knowledge, the auditors the employees “cannot effectively process transactions and contribute to reducing customer wait times.”

Follow more of our reporting on California DMV

See all 10 stories
Related stories from Sacramento Bee