Changing the Culture at the DMV (and in Your Business)


Changing the Culture at the DMV

A regular reader of my writing asked me the following question via email recently:

“According to state workers, the Department of Motor Vehicles is trying to change their reputation of rude customer service. With long lines, rude customers, customers who don’t want to deal with bureaucracy, how could management at the DMV change their culture?”

If you’re a business leader you might be thinking “Why should I care about anyone trying to change the culture at the Department of Motor Vehicles?”

It’s simple: If it’s possible to improve the customer experience at my local DMV, then it’s possible to do even more at my company. Heck – think about it – if the DMV can change, then anything’s possible! 

Moreover, every customer “needs” some form of assistance – whether they voice this request or not. It doesn’t matter if that assistance is provided by great store signage or helpful associates employing customer-friendly processes, your customers (and those at the DMV) genuinely appreciate when they’re needs are addressed.

Improving The Customer Experience Through a Change in Culture

As I told the reader, everything meaningful starts at the very top. In the Marine Corps, we learned that “shit rolls downhill;” and in the case of the DMV, it rolls all the way to the customer. The local DMV clerk didn’t begin their career as an asshole; they just evolved into one over time.

And, while demanding customers can certainly make for a bad day, it’s the managers at the DMV who chiseled those on the frontlines into hardline jerks.

If the leadership at the DMV wants to change the culture, they must start by treating their teams with respect. This means many things, but chief among the changes necessary is that managers must come to work with a servant attitude. Only by striving to serve those they supervise can managers expect their teams to serve others.

Next, management needs to openly begin rewarding those who show respect to the customers. For the most part, those dealing with a government agency (like the DMV) can seem clueless to those on the inside of these agencies. Understanding (from top to bottom) that the average customer doesn’t know how “this” works – and that the job of the DMV clerk is not to “train” customers, but to serve them – will go a long way.

Now, Sit Back and Watch

Yep… it’s really not that hard to dramatically improve the customer experience if the leadership actually cares to improve it.

If you happen to be a manager at the DMV and you’ve honestly made the adjustments mentioned above, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your culture will improve. Once you and your team have a genuine servant attitude in place, the customer experience will noticeably change for those people needing your assistance – which, by the way, happens to be everyone.