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DMV Hell (or Was it Heaven)

At long last, I made an appointment to get my REAL ID. When I called the DMV in June, the first available appointment was in August. Finally, the long anticipated day arrived, and I headed to the DMV. The office was a dreary storefront in a strip mall. When I got there at my designated appointment time, there was a line of twenty some odd people outside the door. Looking through the window, another 20 were sitting in the waiting area. I went to the front of the outside line and asked the employee at the door what I should do as I had an appointment. She told me to come inside, grab a chair, and take a seat.

Once inside, sitting on an uncomfortable chair in a poorly lit and depressing office, I saw a board that had numbers, like at a deli counter. I had no such number, just a reservation confirmation. I approached another DMV employee to ask how to get a number, and she demanded that I go back outside. So outside, I went. About two minutes later, the employee who initially let me in, came out, conspiratorially explained that it was her boss who kicked me out. She explained the boss could be surly, and I should wait inside. I sat down again. Finally, I approached yet another employee at a desk who ultimately gave my “deli” number.

I then sat down for a long wait as there were six numbers already on the board and none of them were mine. Imagine my surprise, when my number was called immediately. (It turns out if you have an appointment you are jumped to the front of the list.) As I go to my assigned booth who is staffing it but the surly lady who kicked me out earlier. My stomach knotted up, but she turned out to be very pleasant and quite efficient. Despite being told to bring myriad documents, she just looked at my passport, generated a temporary REALID license, told me the permanent would be mailed to me in 10 days and sent me on my way. Most amazingly, the picture she took for the license was presentable.

My experience with DMV started poorly but ended well. Yet, I still have an uneasy feeling about interacting with the DMV again. There is an important lesson for schools in this. Sometimes we feel if we provide our students with a great classroom experience that is all we need to do. So we don’t pay attention to the ease of the rest of the system. We make it difficult to pay--no credit cards please. We pay little attention to carline--it will get better as the year progresses. We use a number of software platforms to communicate with families--they will figure out which to use for what. And now that COVID is over all conferences are in person--they will take time off from work.

Instead, we need to think about our schools as a complete experience, and we should make all the dealings with the school seamless. Yes, the classroom experience is most important. However, parents and students still want to feel good about all their interactions with the school. Look at all your processes and determine if they are customer and student friendly. If not, rethink them.

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