An Unlikely Business Makeover

What organization offers the absolute worst customer experience? National Customer Shame surveys list utility companies and budget airlines, wireless carriers and shipping companies. But the overwhelming winner: The good old DMV, The Department of Motor Vehicles.

When you imagine walking in for your soul-crushing visit, you’re instantly filled with dread. Long lines, rude service, bleak environment. The subject of jokes and parodies, we just assume that’s the way it has to be.

But Chad Price had a different idea when competing for the private contract to run the DMV in Holly Springs, North Carolina. He wondered what would happen if he created the exact opposite experience of a typical government agency. Step by step, he studied conventional approaches and then set out to disrupt them.

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Today, if you walk in 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 delicious gourmet cupcakes that are waiting for you on the counter. Perhaps you enjoy a fresh smoothie, cold-pressed juice, or one of the dozens of exotic coffee flavors they offer. There are fresh cut flowers, area rugs, and a lovely children’s play area to entertain the young ones while parents conduct their business. Warm color tones, friendly smiles, comfy seating. Wait, is this really a DMV?

The experience isn’t only pleasant, it’s also efficient. 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 updates during their wait. Locals love the place so much, they’ve been known to come in for coffee and cupcakes just to hang out and read a book even if they have no pressing business at the location.

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. What about cost, you may ask? The efficient tech, improved training, and profits from selling food goodies more than cover the extra expense, while converting customers from cringing haters to raving fans.

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.

holly springs 13It’s easy to feel stuck doing things the way they’ve always been done. But the Holly Springs DMV shows that the only real boundary our own imagination. 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 results as your customers line up and take a number for a hefty serving of originality.

Ready for your own business makeover? Grab a cupcake and spring into action.