Some CX Fixes Might Not Be So Easy

I asked Georgiana Swan, one of my co-workers at Forrester Research, to test out some chatbots and see if she could spot some particularly good or bad ones. She went above and beyond and documented her experience calling her local DMV. Here is a screenshot of her notes; they are a window into her mind as she fought with the interactive voice response system.

A screenshot of a phoneDescription automatically generated

This is something we've all experienced as consumers. It's so easy to relate to her pain. But if you are reading this, you are probably involved in customer service, and you also feel the pain of an organization that is doing its best with what it has.

I want to look at this pain from both sides for a moment. I'm going to categorize her comments here into different issues and talk about some of the underlying challenges that lead to them and how they could be addressed.

Let's use her notes and break things down a bit. For some of these, I'll have ideas on what can be done; others are a bit tougher.

Announcement issues, devoting too much time telling customers things they already know or repeated reminders that are not helpful:

  • OMG, it's been over three minutes of automated message…
  • WE GET IT, WE NEED A REAL ID BY MAY 7, 2025!!!!!
  • LOL,l and agents can't book an appointment for you.
  • Now it wants to text me a link to go online. I hate these people.

Being on hold is painful. You should never subject your customers to too many messages. Three minutes up front of messages is not OK. You can say a couple of things, but you should minimize the amount of talking. Helpful tips are a nice way to break up the hold music, but should be only a small portion of the hold time, and messages should be repeated sparingly.

Staffing shortages, which lead to long wait times and painful experiences.

  • Twenty-three calls in queue; I've been on the phone for eight minutes, and wait time is more than 10 minutes

I love that last comment from Georgiana. We've all felt that way, and it's beyond frustrating. Hiring however, is not always a simple thing to do.

I've spent a lot of time working with DMVs, and I spent a day at an event where they looked at contact center best practices and technology. At that event, I had lunch with a bunch of hard-working, dedicated people who talked about how hard it is to hire folks for a DMV contact center. It's a government job, not high-paying but with a full pension. That's great, but try to get a 25-year-old to care about that.

They are trying to hire, but it's hard, and, so, they tend to be understaffed. We talked about some of the things they can do, like providing queued callbacks or expanding self-service capabilities. It might also be possible to work with a third-party outsourcing company to provide additional staffing.

Corporate silos and organizational challenges:

  • I've gone through three different IVRs now.
  • Ugh, I got on the wrong line for those who have gotten a suspended license, noooooo.
  • God, now I have to hear this whole thing again.
  • There is another IVR once you get past license.

All of these issues appear to be driven by trying to make unconnected organizations sound like a single unit. At a DMV, the registration folks are frequently part of a separate organization from the driver's license folks. Each could have their own IVR, and it can be very difficult to provide a warm handoff between the two teams. So, callers get transferred between groups, get assaulted with new IVRs, often find themselves needing to revalidate themselves, and on and on.

These are the hardest problems to solve. It's easy to say you need to take an outside-in look at your customer service, but that can be very challenging as each department has its own priorities and needs. Fixing this sort of issue must come from the top; it cannot be done at a grassroots level.

In the end, some of this is addressable, particularly the first issue, where a better understanding of the user experience and customer needs can lead to a design that is at least less irritating, and in some cases, things like queued callback could even make the experience great. Other fixes here require much more; you can't just wave a magic wand at structural and staffing challenges to solve them.

After meeting with folks from various DMVs, I can state unequivocally that they are knowledgeable, hard-working, and on top of things. It's just not that straightforward to make some of this better.

Max Ball is a principal analyst at Forrester Research. Georgiana Swan is a research associate at Forrester.