It is said that government offices in the former Soviet Union were crowded with long lines, had extensive wait times, confusing forms and requirements, and inefficient, unattractive, aged facilities. The workers had to use ancient computer terminals, gave out non-descript receipts for transactions and operated under procedures that defied explanation.
Unfortunately, that is not really a description of the former Soviet Union but somewhat of a description of the condition of our Tennessee driver’s license testing centers according to a study just completed for the state of Tennessee by FedEx Corporation.
Recently, I too required services from the local driver’s license testing center. Although I had completed a mail in form to change my address, I still had to go to the center to receive my new license. When I arrived, I took a number and joined the more than 30 others waiting for services. Conversations with my comrades revealed that many of them had been waiting for more than an hour. In the course of events I noticed a poster that seemed to indicate that I could have paid for my new license on-line and had it mailed to me. However, I had already waited 55 minutes when I discovered this bit of useful information. Rather than abandon my new friends, who were feeling quite hopeless by this time that they would ever get back to work or school that day, I decided to make a study of the situation and stayed to see how long this relatively simple transaction would take. Just over two hours after I arrived I received my new license. Upon leaving, my remaining new companions, still good humored, cheered for me, and I promised them that I would not forget their suffering but try to do something about it.
Please don’t think that I am criticizing the workers at the center. Once my number was called, it actually only took a few short minutes to process the transaction and receive my new license. It is not their fault that the technology, systems, and procedures in the driver’s license testing centers have been so long neglected by the state. In fact, state workers are our friends and neighbors and they deserve an advanced, up to date system to work under as much as we deserve speedy efficient service.
Due to this experience, I discovered the good news that a Fortune 100 corporation known for its efficiency, FedEx, has examined our problems and completed a report offering their best recommendations to alleviate our woes.
The report makes very smart suggestions for improvements to customer service that includes establishing more convenient times – open at 7 am and close at 7:30 pm; utilize self-service on site kiosks. Better promote and improve on-line use; list required documents, construct pre-visit practice tests, printable forms, or better yet, on-line forms integrated with the testing center so that when you arrive your information is already in the computer. Create a centralized call center to answer questions or complete transactions. Use a mix of part-time and full time employees to ensure more flexible hours and meet peak demand times. There are other recommendations for internal changes that improve technology, speed, accuracy, create consistency in the application of statutory requirements, and institute uniform processes across the division.
The Department of Safety is currently in the process of implementing 14 initiatives from the study and compiling the costs and evaluating the impact of the remaining 25 recommendations. Many of the suggestions in the report do not require any more money but simply changes the way we currently do business; like improvements to policies, procedures, schedules, utilization of unused capabilities of current computer software, reconfiguration of facilities, and publication suggestions.
Excited by these many fine ideas, I spoke to Commissioner Nicely about drafting a resolution to thank FedEx who completed this study and report free of charge to the citizen’s of the state of Tennessee.
Most of us work hard, pay our taxes, go home at the end of the day and take care of our families. We don’t really receive many direct services from the state. However, whether once a year, or every few years, when we do go to a driver’s license testing center we’re not being selfish to expect that our taxes will provide us with the same level of convenience, service and efficiency that we receive in the private sector.
When I run my resolution to thank FedEx, it will be in honor of the very good natured, new found friends that I met earlier last month at the driver’s license testing center. And hopefully, you will see some smart changes instituted very soon.