Rhode Islanders have long clamored for better service from the state agencies funded with their tax dollars. The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles is no exception.
This year the division began a series of steps to improve its operations, which started with a customer survey that helped us better understand how our customers interact with the agency and access its services.
A persistent complaint about the DMV is the length of time it takes to complete a transaction in one of our offices. Understandably, people who are used to spending a few minutes at an ATM or buying merchandise online do not relish the idea of waiting hours for service at a DMV.
The launch this summer of our new computer system gave us insight into how we can begin to address the wait-time issue. We instituted a temporary service reservation program as part of the successful launch of our computer system.
Requiring people to make reservations for service helped us monitor the computer system performance as we brought it online and helped us manage the flow of customers so that our service representatives could acclimate themselves to new transaction processes.
The temporary reservation program, which ended in mid-July, also served as a real-time customer survey: How would they react to having to make a reservation? How easy or hard would they find it to use the reservation system? Did they find things went better for them at the DMV with reservations in hand?
The response from customers was almost universally positive. Many people urged us to keep the reservation system permanently.
We are now taking a step in that direction.
On Thursday, Oct. 5, we will institute a limited customer reservation program.
We took a thoughtful, methodical approach to the July 5 launch of our new computer program. That proved a successful strategy, as we recently reached a notable milestone — completing 250,000 customer transactions through mid-September. We will employ the same strategy with the re-introduction of a customer service reservation program, rolling it out in phases.
In this next phase, the reservation program will be restricted to the Adjudication Office. Reservations will be mandatory for completing certain transactions in that office, which is located in our Cranston headquarters.
We will open a reservation portal on our website Thursday, Sept. 28. Details on which transactions will require reservations, as well as how to make a reservation, are available on our website, dmv.ri.gov.
This may seem like a small step toward fixing what many Rhode Islanders consider a big problem at the DMV. But keep in mind, it is only one step of the many we are taking to improve our service.
With more than 775,000 driver’s licenses held in Rhode Island and nearly 914,000 active vehicles registrations, the DMV processes about 1.36 million transactions every year. A reservation system alone will not reduce wait times to the point they are unnoticeable.
The sheer volume of people who come to the DMV is the primary driver of wait times. Our analysis shows that we must do more to make people aware of our online services and that we must make more transactions available online.
We realize that the only way to reduce wait times is to reduce the number of people who come to the DMV, increase service staff, or a combination of both. We have more customer service representatives in training now, and we hope to get funding in the next budget cycle to hire more line employees. We are hopeful, that soon enough, Rhode Islanders will recognize in the DMV the improvements that they have long sought.
Walter R. Craddock is Administrator of the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles.