When you think about customer service, can you recall a memorable one you had? If I told you I had such an experience at the California DMV, a great one at that, what would be your reaction?
I dreaded going to the DMV to renew my license for several weeks since the notice came in the mail. The renewal had to happen before October, and it involved fingerprinting, eye test, knowledge test, and picture taking. There was also my desire to get the Real ID–the one with the gold bear and star. I wanted the Real ID. Never mind that I have a passport and I really don’t need it, but I wanted that Star on my driver’s license! I made an appointment to visit the Santa Clara DMV, but the earliest date I could get was September 27th, and I didn’t want to wait until then. I decided I would go early to the DMV and take my chance without an appointment. I pictured the long line and the wait and mentally prepared myself for a wasted morning.
I went online and completed my application for renewal and got a number to take with me to the DMV, and collected all the documents needed for the Real ID—my passport, Social security card, the title to my vehicle, my car insurance card, which I had in the car. I also had to take my driving glasses for reading the eye chart.
I arrived at the DMV just before 7 am, and as I expected the line was long, but not too bad. I got assigned to a service window. The agent left the window as soon as I got there, without a single word to me, and went around the office taking care of something and came back after a few minutes. That wasn’t a good experience, but I had low expectations and had prepared myself for the wait. The agent came back and asked me about the documents I had. I forgot to pick up the car insurance card from the car, and the agent said since I don’t have two proofs of residency, I will have to forget about the Read ID, and just get a license renewal. Such a disappointment, but I said Oh well! Then began the wait to see an agent who would execute my renewal. After half an hour of surfing the web on my cellphone, they called my number G029 and off I went to window number 11.
It looked like the lady at the window 11 had just arrived. She was putting away her purse and getting ready for her first customer. At least she didn’t leave the window as soon as she saw me! She asked for all the documents, checked them, and said it is a pity that I don’t have a second proof of residency, and asked if I don’t have a vehicle insurance card. I said I had meant to bring the insurance card from my car but had forgotten. To my huge surprise, she asked me if I wanted to go to my car and bring it while she went through the rest of my documents. I went to my car, which I had parked close to the entrance and brought my second proof of residency and all was well! Paid the $36 fee, sailed through my eye test, knowledge test, took a picture and got my temporary license card and got home by 9:15, with almost three hours to go in my morning.
During my drive back, I felt thrilled to have accomplished my goal–that of getting my license renewed, and with Real ID! I asked myself why I felt so good. I believe it is because of three elements. One, being prepared for a less than stellar customer experience, two, being patient when he left me standing at the counter by the first agent, and three, the most important one– I was lucky to have the agent at Window 11 assigned to my renewal, who knew what she was doing, and who made sure I achieved the complete goal for the visit.
Ultimately, our experiences have to do at least partially with our state of mind. When we are open and have no expectations, we have a good experience. We have an excellent experience when the unexpected happens and lifts our spirits and you go on to the next one feeling positive.
Wish you all a good customer experience!
Toastmaster note: A variation of this was delivered for a project on entertaining speech.