Ugh. Is there anyone that likes dealing with the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles)? Seldom does a day go by that I don’t see a comment from a tortured soul waiting in a painfully long line at the DMV. Similar to that other beloved public agency, the IRS, the DMV has a reputation for confusing processes, no sense of customer service and an infrastructure stuck in the technological dark ages.

In most cases, I’m sure the problem doesn’t lie the employees themselves. They’re stuck on the front lines to deal with people who don’t want to be there and they’re armed with systems that, well, suck. Royally so.

Fabulous News!

With that as my backdrop, I was delighted to receive a letter from the DMV with instructions to renew my Driver’s License online. Fabulous! Piece o’cake! I went online; click here, fill in information there, pay with my credit card – easy, peasy, I was done.

All I had to do now was wait for my brand-new license to arrive. I waited several days to receive my new license. While waiting, my current license expired. I waited a few more days. It still hadn’t arrived.

Less-Than-Fabulous News!

I realized there was no way around it – I’d have to contact the DMV to try to locate the whereabouts of my new license. As I envisioned an maze of automated telephone options standing between me and the information I needed, I had an idea. I wondered, might it be possible that the DMV has an account on Twitter? Surely, it was unlikely, given their propensity to tell people to follow the blue line on the floor to wait to get to the front of the line, only to find they needed to be following the red line.

Good News!

Much to my surprise, I was easily able to locate the DMV’s Twitter account. Not only is @CA_DMV a verified account, it seemed to be somewhat active. I was hopeful. Many agencies and businesses have had great success providing this additional channel through which customers can make contact. I’ve had questions answered and general assistance given directly through Twitter. When my question or problem was more complex, I was asked to send a DM (direct message, a private way to communicate on Twitter) with my contact information or account number so that a representative could investigate and get back to me. Despite the gentle ribbing I was getting online for having reached out to the DMV through Twitter, this is what I had hoped would happen with @CA_DMV.

The good news is that I did receive a reply within a few hours; this means that someone is monitoring the account. The bad news is that the reply directed me to call the DMV.

Old News Dressed as New News

What a huge missed opportunity! Twitter is best used when we are engaged with our audience. Setting up a Twitter account solely for the purpose of broadcasting information, without having a plan in place to interact and assist, sends a mixed message to the audience or customer base. Having an active presence on Twitter makes me feel that the DMV is interested in using technology in an innovative way to connect and assist those with questions. Sending me a reply directing me to call makes me feel silly to have forgotten that this was, after all, the DMV.

Just Because Everyone Else is Doing It, Does That Make it Right For You?

As I wrote in an earlier post, the simple act of going online to “get social” will not fix or enhance any business or organization, unless there is already a solid infrastructure, history and plan in place which places customer service at the top of the priority list. Jumping on Twitter (or any other cool tool that everyone else seems to be using) can easily do more damage than good if it’s done before laying the necessary groundwork.

UPDATE: I did call the number as instructed, hung up after 17 minutes on hold. Not surprisingly, there was no way to know when, if ever, my call would be answered. There were no “You are now the 93rd caller in line to speak with a friendly representative” announcements. The DMV black hole – exactly what I was trying to avoid. I have yet to receive my new license.

UPDATED UPDATE: A few days later, I called again. Someone finally answered after 30+ minutes. It turns out that the online system told me that I would receive my new license in 5 days. The DMV Twitter account told me it would be sent in 7-10 days. The DMV representative I spoke to on the phone today explained that the process takes 6 weeks. (yes, weeks!). Apparently, communication internally has as much room to improve as does their communication with those outside the agency.

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