I’ll take the public sector queue, please

When I told my little tale of minor annoyance about having to get a new Social Security card a couple of weeks back (35 years I went without one, and the first time anyone asks me for it is when I find myself unemployed), some of my libertarian friends out there predictably pointed to it as a sign of the inefficiency and unaccountability of gummint. Which I expected, having handed you such a beautiful opportunity. (Don’t say I never gave you anything.)

But here’s the thing about that — it really didn’t take very long, and aside from the hassles from security guards, it all went pretty smoothly. My new SS card arrived in the mail sooner than expected. I gave it to Mamanem to put in a safe place.

Contrast that to my experience at my wireless phone provider, where I went to get my Blackberry wiped clean of stuff from the corporate server (how’s that for a band name: Corporate Server), and set up my new e-mail and such. An hour and a half. The young man who helped me couldn’t have been nicer (which is why I removed the actual name of my wireless provider, because I don’t want to get him in any trouble with his boss), and admittedly the transaction was somewhat complex. But what gets me is the wait before someone starts helping you. When I asked about whether there was a time I could come back and not find such a crowd, I was told there wasn’t. One employee mentioned that his wife calls the place “the DMV of wireless.” Which is a good joke, except for the fact that the DMV has figured out how to provide its services without making people wait forever. Maybe the cell phone companies should ask the DMV how they did it.

6 thoughts on “I’ll take the public sector queue, please

  1. Mike Cakora

    My wireless carrier — ten years, how time flies — has a decent triage system with a separate service lane for bill-paying and pay-as-you-go service. We use AT&T, nee Cingular. That helps and triage is what the DMV does on a grander scale: not all DMV offices do all things, but at each of the larger offices they have a triage desk at the entrance to winnow the hard stuff from the easy and speed service. There’s more that I could tell you over a beer or two because I lived the DMV modernization from 1999 to 2003.

    Your request was especially labor-intensive and probably unusual. It’s good to know that there was a skilled individual who could do what you needed. You may even have been quite lucky.

    Today’s WSJ has a relevant book review of Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us. During and after the DMV modernization DMV personnel tracked activity levels at all the offices throughout the state and used that data to inform the legislature of the number of service lanes by population and by waiting time. This allowed legislators to adjust DMV funding to add lanes / personnel to balance things out. The old system did not allow DMV to do this well, but back then folks knew that if they were in a hurry, they were better off driving to Ballantine to take care of their DMV needs than to go to Shop Road.

  2. bud

    Mike I’m glad you brought up the DMV modernization process. That was something in the works BEFORE the dreaded restructuring fiasco of 1993. The whole thing was seriously sidetracked for at least 5 years. Thanks to The State newspaper and Carroll Campbell state government was essentially put on hold for that length of time. And the taxpayers are still footing the bill. Restructuring is akin to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We can pursue the dream endlessly but will only experience frustration without ever realizing the dream.

  3. Lee Muller

    The DMV did not even put out a spec for the first generation of new drivers license systems until 1998. They developed their own, at over twice the cost of buying a proven, new one that cost half as much.

    Then they spent that much more again from 2000 through 2006 on maintenance and enhancements. In 2007, they got it connected to the insurance companies.

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