Technology Bites! (Los Altos TOWN CRIER, April 2013)The new automated DMV! Make an appointment online! Or with our voice-recognition phone system! Or with a real person via our call-back system – no more waiting on hold!NOT! Or at least, not always.My sweet silver-haired mother is at that age where she must renew her driver’s license every year. I agreed that she would make the appointment on-line and I would accompany her down to the Santa Clara office.
That evening I asked how her day was going. She moaned. “I’ve been trying to make that appointment with the DMV, and it won’t let me do it. It says I have to call an 800 number, and I tried it, but I was on hold for over 15 minutes and gave up.”
“Poor Mom,” I thought condescendingly. “Just can’t cope anymore with computers.” So I went over to set things straight.
I filled out the online form: First Name, Last Name, Address, Drivers License #, etc. Submitted. Red print fills the screen. “Your license number and name do not match our records. Please check spelling and number and try again. If you need assistance, please dial 1-800-etc.”
I checked. First Name on Mom’s driver’s license lists both her first and maiden names. OK, so I type both names in at the First Name prompt, checked spelling carefully, checked that I had zero’s instead of O’s where needed, submitted. Red print fills the screen.
My condescension has evaporated. Mom is not the issue.
So I dial the 1-800 number and choose the “Make an Appointment” option from the recorded menu. A voice-recognition recording requests Name, Address, Phone number, address, etc. After providing data scrupulously for five minutes, I am told by the recorded voice, “Our service is not available at this time. Please try again later. “ Click.
I redial and choose a different option from the recorded menu, “Talk to a technician.” I am told via recording that the wait time will be between “1…hour and …1… hour and… 17… minutes.” I choose the option to have a call back rather than sitting on hold. I “will not lose my place in the queue.”
Mom and I sit around chatting and taking care of some paper work. Each time the phone rings we pounce on it – it is a friend calling about bridge. It is my brother calling to check in. Finally about an hour and 5 minutes from start we get a call. It is a recorded message. “This is the DMV callback system. If you are … [my mother’s name] please press 1. If you need time to get [my mother’s name] to the phone, please press 2.” I press 1.
The recording responds “The response you have given is not valid. If you are [my mother’s name] please press 1. If you need time to get [my mother’s name] to the phone, please press 2.” I press 1 again, firmly. No good. What is with my Mom’s phone? After the fourth round the recording says “You have exceeded the maximum amount of time allowed to respond. Good-bye.” Click.
The next day Mom gets on the phone again, hangs on hold for awhile, and gets to a real person, who sets her up with a preliminary appointment the next day for a provisional license and a later driving test. Our appointment at the DMV involves minimal waiting and friendly, efficient clerks. Let’s hear it for people!