Paul Butler | Exceptional Service at the DMV!

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

Are you sitting down? If not, please do so, as I’m about to tell you something that will shock you. I recently interacted with the Department of Motor Vehicles and received exceptional service! There, I said it. 

A few months back, we changed our address, so I needed to update this on my driver’s license. I reluctantly clicked onto their website, fearing the worst. However, after a few mouse maneuvers, I got exactly where I needed to be and received precisely what I needed — an appointment at the place most people dread: the DMV office. 

I parked easily and walked inside about five minutes early for my appointment to be greeted by a pleasant receptionist who attentively listened, signed me in, gave me a ticket number, and directed me toward the waiting area specific to the purpose of my visit. So far, so good. I then sat down and took out my Kindle, expecting a long wait. But by the time I’d loaded my e-book, my number was flashing on the monitor, directing me toward a certain kiosk. Wow! This is good. 

As I approached the desk, I cynically thought, “This is where it will all fall apart. Surely, I’m going to be half-heartedly served by someone who doesn’t give a hoot.” Yet again, I was shocked. My service agent was pleasant — even humorous — and seemed to genuinely enjoy what she was doing. She took my fingerprints and my photo, and yet we chatted throughout the whole process. It was a pleasant and yet efficient process. I was in and out within about 10 minutes. 

As I skipped out of the DMV (in a manly fashion), I thought I must be in a dream—what have they done to this place? 

It set me thinking about how organizations drive exceptional service. Not just average service. Not OK service. Exceptional service. What makes the experience so good that we’re willing to remark about it to others, positively? 

It occurred to me as I headed toward my parked car that exceptional service is the result of two inputs: process plus people. Case in point: The DMV’s website was an efficient process as it easily got me the appointment I needed. The check-in process was efficient and was attended to by real human beings who seemed to genuinely care about my presence.  

Yes. That’s it. I feel like I discovered the 11th Commandment for the workplace. Efficient Process + Engaged People = Exceptional Service. BOOM! Where’s my tablet to scribe this one upon? 

I was snapped back into reality when trying to exit the parking lot. For some bizarre, nonsensical reason, the only way out of the DMV parking lot was to loop around the building at a snail’s pace due to about 20 cars wanting to do the same. As we cornered the building at about 2 mph, we then had the choice of two lanes — one for driving tests and one for exit.  

After about 15 minutes in the exit line and slowly seeing the sunset, I saw my opportunity. I could do a slight U-turn, drive the wrong way around the lot, and exit before anyone could spell D-M-V. Done. Gone. With a slight tire screech, I’m on my way. Hasta-la-vista baby! I’m out of here! 

I felt bad on the drive home knowing I’d done an illegal move in the DMV parking lot, but I know if I didn’t, I’d have had tomorrow’s breakfast delivered to that lot by Grub Hub. 

I guess this experience amplified to me that, as a leader, as a business owner, or even as a consulting company attempting to overhaul a behemoth like the DMV, one must consider all customer touchpoints — not just those online or inside the four walls. Yes, Efficient Process + Engaged People = Exceptional Service. Sadly, I just can’t use the word “efficient” to describe that paved part of paradise they turned into a parking lot. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS