Michigan residents frustrated by long lines to get a driver's license are in for a surprise the next time they need to renew their ID or register a vehicle. The state has added a virtual placeholder system so that customers don't have to waste time waiting for their turn.
Called the MI-TIME Line, the service lets residents remotely "get in line" at a branch office using a smartphone or other device. The person is alerted a few minutes prior to being called, so they can then go to the office to conduct their business. The Michigan Secretary of State's Office implemented the application last year at 10 different locations in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint and Lansing.
“The customer is in control of their time and can use it [to] run errands, shop or grab a bite to eat,” said Fred Woodhams, communications manager for the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office. “They will be summoned when it is their turn. If they need more time, the system gives them that option without having to go to the back of the line.”
MI-TIME Line officially went live on Jan. 15, 2014 and has passed 1 million customers served, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said in a press release.
In addition to making things easier on the customer, the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office has noticed an uptick on the amount of feedback it has received. Once accessed, MI-TIME Line texts a person a link to an online survey.
Additional benefits include the ability of management at the region and bureau levels to monitor wait times, customer volumes and productivity from their computers. This helps them make staffing and process changes in real time.
“We are able to match the skill level of the employee with the type of transaction of the customer,” Woodhams said. “This makes the service experience more efficient when less skilled [employees] can handle easy and fast transactions while more experienced clerks can handle the more complex transactions.”
QLess, a U.S.-based company that specializes in line-management technology, developed the system. The design was based on specifications from an internal team of the state. Michigan has a five-year, $1.1 million contract with QLess for the technology.
Despite MI-TIME Line’s early success, its rollout had some early challenges. Woodhams noted that the Secretary of State’s Office had to update data connections to a couple of the branch locations to ensure they could use the system. The system has also been tweaked to change transaction categories that customers choose to make the process more user-friendly.
Looking further into 2015, the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office would like to expand MI-TIME Line to additional offices, but an exact number of expansion locations has not yet been identified.
“One issue we are still dealing with is that office staff perform more transactions than many of our counterparts in other states,” Woodhams said. “We do both driver licensing and ID cards, and vehicle license plates and related transaction [such as] titles and watercraft. Seven of the MI-TIME Line offices also perform document authentication for use overseas.”
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.