From the Director: MVD rises to unique customer service challenges during pandemic

From the Director: MVD rises to unique customer service challenges during pandemic

By John Halikowski / ADOT Director
July 14, 2020

We’ve heard the phrase “living in unprecedented times” so often over the past few months that it’s become a cliche. That doesn’t make it any less true, and for the ADOT Motor Vehicle Division, the effects of the public health emergency actually have been unprecedented, specifically in how we’re able to meet customer demand.

When the emergency was declared, MVD never closed. Our first responsibility is to serve the public and to do so safely. Because of our commitment to doing all we can to offer vital services, we either initiated or refined business practices in ways we never contemplated before. A lot of the credit for making these changes work goes to the professionalism and dedication of our front-line employees and leadership. 

Among the things we did were to set up an appointment system for offices, limiting services to first time license and registration. License renewals were extended by six months for anyone whose credential expires between March and September of this year. MVD leadership also responded with quickness to set up a statewide customer service hotline so people can make appointments and set up AZ MVD Now accounts. 

Even with that action, call center operations have been diminished, meaning call queues can be more than 30 minutes before reaching a customer service representative. 

The system isn’t perfect, but the fact it exists at all is a testament to the creativity and dedication of every MVD employee. We stood up what amounts to a call center in a matter of days and we’re working each day to make it better.

Our offices can handle about 4,000 people a day as opposed to the normal level of about 14,000. You can see how that puts pressure on a phone system where perhaps 200 or so customer service agents are available at any one time. 

That number fluctuates because of the pandemic. In fact, we can generally plan on having only about 70 percent of our workforce available on a given business day. When an MVD employee tests positive for COVID-19, many of his or her office colleagues will also get tested. That’s a days-long commitment that usually means that office is closed, further burdening the rest of the system. 

Some customers have contacted MVD worried that registration tabs have taken longer than expected to be sent via the U.S. Mail. Even if there is such a delay, once a first-time registration or a renewal has been paid, the customer’s accurate status is updated to the MVD database accessible to law enforcement. Customers may also wish to keep their receipts after making payment. 

Additionally, drivers whose license expires between March and September of 2020 have had that date automatically updated by six months and do not need to visit MVD for a renewal until the new date. 

We recognize this is not the level of service that the public has come to expect, or that we expect from ourselves, and we are working hard to find new ways to safely and effectively serve the public.  At the same time, we have offices around the state with front-line workers dedicated to keeping pace with the needs of our customers. Under stressful and hectic conditions, they are pushing forward to provide critical services for the public. We are making process and technology improvements every day to make the situation better for Arizonans.