The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has seen significant decreases in wait times for walk-in customers with the use of a lobby management tool that provides near-real-time data that allows staff to adjust to demand.
The specter of putting federally compliant Real IDs in people’s hands by Oct. 1 has left motor vehicle departments across the country scrambling. To meet the needs of the final wave of stragglers seeking a driver’s license to board domestic flights in the months ahead, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles turned to a no-cost pilot program.
The Real ID program, which was adopted by Congress in 2005 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, mandates that states thoroughly verify a person’s identity with a document-intensive process. After multiple extensions for state governments to comply, the final cutoff date in October has been cause for growing concern among DMV officials nationwide.
For example, when California launched Real ID in 2018, the state’s offices were debilitated by long lines that forced Gov. Gavin Newsom to deploy to a strike team to modernize the agency last year. Other government leaders, like Oklahoma’s Gov. Kevin Stitt, are hoping that eleventh-hour investments in online portals will help clear residents faster for Real IDs.
Nevada DMV Director Julie Butler said that while her office focuses on educating the estimated 800,000 residents who still need the new IDs about the other forms of federal documentation accepted by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) — such as passports and U.S. military ID — the agency needed a contingency plan.
After bad press and wait times of four to five hours in its Las Vegas offices, Nevada DMV officials looked for a better way to manage its appointments — exclusive to its six metro offices — with its walk-in wait times. The state contracted with vendor Qmatic for a no-cost pilot from December 2018 to April 2019. Upon completion of the pilot, a five-year contract was established with the vendor, costing $471,603 for the first year of service, followed by about $76,000-$80,000 annually until April 2024.
“They’re trying to experiment with the QMatic system to dedicate a certain number of windows in our metro offices to service only Real ID customers and see how that works,” Butler said. “If that proves successful, that’s a method that will continue until we get through the October push.”
The new system allows the DMV to track transaction data in near real time and staff to adjust as needed to the data. At the agency’s six largest offices — Carson City, Las Vegas and Reno — the average wait time for walk-in customers has decreased by more than 42 percent — from 69 minutes in 2018 to 40 minutes in 2019 — whereas the volume of people seeking DMV services without an appointment in that time has risen more than 22 percent — from about 356,000 to nearly 437,000, according to a recent release of the agency’s quarterly data.
Nevada’s previous queuing system posed serious metric-reporting issues, which delayed the DMV’s response to upticks in walk-in and appointment customers, said Field Services Administrator Tonya Laney.
The agency found that customers with appointments did not complain about wait times, but walk-ins became increasingly frustrated the longer their transactions took. If the department focused solely on walk-ins, there was an adverse effect on those with an appointment. It became clear, she said, that the agency needed to find a way to balance both types of customers effectively before the Real ID push in 2020.
The DMV needed a tool that would provide near-real-time analytics so the 18 offices throughout the state could focus resources where the data showed it was needed most.
“Being able to drill down to the transaction level to determine additional training or staffing needs is a huge benefit,” Laney said. “We can address red flags we are seeing before they become issues for the customer or staff.”
But the department also sought input from work groups within the six metro offices to complement the data with human observations, she said. An idea adopted from these sessions was to section off DMV buildings to keep customers closest to the windows they would be served at.
“Our lobbies in some of our metro offices in Las Vegas and Reno are quite large, so to even save one or two minutes walking from the other side of the building to the window that you’re going to be served at, cutting that in half adds up when you see 1,100 to 1,400 customers per day in that office,” Laney said.
Laney advised that other DMV-type departments looking to optimize service delivery need to move as many transactions as possible to alternate technology, which will allow an agency to better serve customers who have no choice but to come into the office.
Currently, DMV office managers are aware that a typical transaction takes about 11 minutes. With the metric dashboards provided by the vendor, managers can identify a transaction lasting longer than average and provide additional assistance to staff on a case-by-case basis. The dashboards further aid in reporting the department’s progress to the governor’s office and the public, thereby increasing transparency.
“We just knew we wanted to improve the customer and staff experience,” Laney said. “We knew if we could drive some of the traffic into the DMV at times [when] we had better coverage, that we could better manage the unknown waves of customers coming in at will without an appointment.”