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If Only the Private Sector Could be as Efficient as the Government

There’s something I never expected to type… but I sat on hold forever this morning waiting for a company to take my money, and I was struck by that wild thought.

I remember getting my driver’s license renewed in “the good old days.” Going to the DMV and waiting in a line roughly two city blocks long, followed by finding out you were missing one piece of information… which meant enjoying the whole experience again the following day. I used to say in seminars that one of my least favorite jobs would be a DMV clerk. Not a lot of people in a good mood when they finally got to the window.

And now? Most renewals and payments can be done by mail or online. That might not be noteworthy in 2022, but the DMV in Georgia was on the front end of the curve converting to online processing back in the day. I still remember opening the envelope saying I didn’t have to wait in that line- I almost framed it for my office. And when I did have to go to the local DMV a few years ago, I packed my computer and prepared for the worst. I showed up to get in line, and to my surprise there were few people there. They had efficient queuing, simple step by step touch screen instructions, and cheerful reps. I was in and out in less than fifteen minutes. I’d stored up all that righteous anger for nothing.

Contrast that with the travel industry, which was my source of discontent this morning. I know they’ve had a rough time due to the pandemic… but still. I’m a high-level frequent flyer on my airline of choice, but when I need a rep I still get routed to the recording that says “we’ll call you back when it’s convenient for us… within 4 hours and 31 minutes.” And the callback inevitably comes when I’m in a meeting, so I get to do it over again. And as I was booking an online reservation with my rental car company of choice, I got a notification that I couldn’t get express service because my credit card had expired. But the “good” news was that I could call and have it added. I did- it involved multiple questions, several menu options, entering in all the reservation data, etc.

When I finally reached a rep, he didn’t have any of my info so I had to repeat it. Then after he added my card number to the reservation, I asked him to add it to my profile. He said he couldn’t do that, but gave me a new number to call to start all over. And he noted that division didn’t open for another few hours, so I’d have to wait. I could almost hear the sinister laugh in the background: “BU-WA-HA-HA-HA-HAAAAA!”

That’s when I added to the list of things I never thought I’d say:

“I wish some of these companies were as efficient as the DMV.”

Ralph Smith

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