When you think of terrible customer service, what types of companies come to mind? You may be thinking utility companies, budget airlines, wireless carriers or shipping companies. But shockingly the overwhelming winner: The good old DMV, The Department of Motor Vehicles.
Upon imagining walking in for your soul-crushingly boring visit, you're instantly filled with dread and frustration. Long lines, rude service, unappealing environment, uncomfortable seating, and the anxiety of losing your spot in line. The subject of jokes and parodies, we just assume that's the way it has to be.
But investor Chad Price had a different idea when competing for the private contract to run the DMV in Holly Springs, North Carolina. He questioned what would happen if he created the exact opposite experience of a typical government agency. Where do you even start? Step by step, he studied conventional approaches and then set out to disrupt them
Today, if you walk into his DMV branch (yes, he won the contract), you instantly need a double take to confirm you're in the right place. You notice the mouth-watering gourmet cupcakes that are waiting for you on the counter. Perhaps you enjoy a delicious smoothie, cold-pressed juice, or one of the dozens of exotic coffee flavors they offer. There are fresh cut flowers, area rugs, and a cute children's play area to entertain the young ones while parents conduct their business. Vibrant color tones, inviting greetings, cushy seating, the examples are endless. Wait, is this really a DMV?
The experience isn't only enjoyable, it's also efficient. Customer service is top-tier in a plethora of different ways. Customers can use a mobile app to check in before their arrival, and later receive a text when their number is coming up. Walk-ins speed through the check-in process on an iPod and are alerted with notifications during their wait. Locals love the place so much, they've been known to come in for coffee and cupcakes just to relax and read a book even if they have no pressing business at the location. Now that is not what you'd expect at your local DMV!
I'm sure the bureaucratic establishment would have pointed out all the reasons such a transformation "couldn't be done." And yet, even the dreaded DMV came to life with a little imagination and creativity, coupled with a twist. But how do they sustain this? The costs must be through the roof!? The efficient tech, improved training, and profits from selling food goodies more than cover the extra expense, while converting customers from frustrated haters to raving fans, all done by thinking of the customer first.
By completely distrupting the notion of customer service at the DMV on it's head, there is zero doubt which DMV will get the most business in the area or which company will get the next government contract to open additional outlets. In this case, Chad Price flipped DMV to mean "Department of Maximum Value," for both himself and his customers.
It's easy to feel stuck doing things the way they've always been done, change is difficult to overcome. But the Holly Springs DMV shows that the only real boundary is our own imagination. A little dash of customer service and a smile goes a long way. Take a look at your most established notions and practices, and apply this same sense of creative wonder. You may just be blown away by the outcomes as your customers line up and take a number for a hefty serving of originality.
Ready for your own business transformation? Grab a cupcake and spring into action.
Josh Linkner who started his career as a jazz guitarist – has been the founder and CEO of five tech companies, which sold for a combined value of over $200 million. He is also a deeply experienced business leader, venture capitalist, top-rated keynote speaker, and author of four books, the New York Times bestsellers: Disciplined Dreaming and The Road to Reinvention, as well as his latest book, Hacking Innovation. And yes, he still plays a mean jazz guitar.