Over the past three months, we have made substantial progress toward improving management and customer service practices at the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). This report serves to update you on these changes. While we have maintained active communications with the Chairs and many members of the Joint Committee on Public Safety, we also intend this report to respond formally to that Committees request that information on the progress of changes at the RMV be communicated to them as well as to the members of the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means.
The ultimate goal of the changes we have made is to improve customer service at the RMV. We have left no stone unturned to find out what we should and can be doing to achieve this goal.
In an attempt to benchmark customer service improvements, we sought out "best practices" from other states (e.g. Virginia) and modeled our approach on successful private sector service industries. We included our staff at all levels of the agency in the dialogue. We have looked to implement or advance the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and what was gleaned from their public hearings throughout the state. We have implemented recommendations from the Executive Office of Public Safety and from an internal RMV task force from last year. We have discussed with members of the Legislature the macro- and micro-issues that have caused problems for their constituents. As Registrar, I have personally visited 16 of our branches across the state, spoken with our staff, worked along side them, and interacted with customers to seek their input. All of these efforts have guided our work.
This report covers the changes, upgrades, and improvements made in a number of categories including: senior and middle management; branch facilities; customer services; customer outreach; technology; as well as improvements to the quality of our services and partnerships with other agencies and organizations.
In order to address the complex and difficult issues facing the RMV, we moved quickly to replace a number of senior managers and reorganized our senior management structure.
To date, we have hired new people into the following positions: Deputy Registrar; Chief of Staff; Deputy Registrar for Operations; Director of Human Resources; Director of Communications; and General Counsel.
The other critical change was making the Director of Field Operations, who is directly responsible for managing all 39 Registry offices state-wide, a senior staff member and a direct report to the Registrar. In addition, we have re-assigned two full-time support staff to Field Operations which was previously a one-person office.
We have moved aggressively to promote the best and brightest employees we have. The new buzz-words for our district and branch managers are decentralization and empowerment. We are ceding decision-making authority from our main office to these managers and are holding them responsible for customer satisfaction in their branches. Over-centralization in the past has added to the bureaucratic sluggishness many customers have experienced and needlessly slowed processes with little or no gain.
To date, we have replaced or reassigned four of our six district managers, to whom our branch managers report, and 13 of our 29 branch managers and supervisors. We have hired additional training staff so that new and existing employees get adequate technological and customer service training.
We have taken the concerns of the public and Legislators seriously regarding a lack of professionalism among some of the staff. A number of individuals have been re-assigned from direct customer contact, to work that is more appropriate to their skill sets. In other cases, we have initiated necessary progressive disciplinary tracks, and have ordered suspensions. We have set a standard of zero tolerance for discourteous behavior.
Most importantly, we have placed an unprecedented premium on the work of good, loyal front-line employees by individually recognizing good work being done, and publicly defending the integrity of RMV employees. For our dedicated public servants, morale does not improve by public floggings. Nor does it advance our efforts for friendlier service by tarring and feathering all employees because of the few who are not meeting our new, high standards. The employee on the front-line is our most valuable asset and we are striving to improve their working conditions and give them the tools they need to be successful. We have already seen that respect for the employee is yielding positive results.
As of the end of September, eight of our branches leases had lapsed, placing the RMV in an awkward, uncertain position. It was a top priority to sign lease extensions as quickly as possible. Lease extensions or new lease agreements have been executed on the following sites: Lawrence, Southbridge, Lowell, Cambridgside Galleria Mall, Northampton (Hadley) and Greenfield. Two are still in process.
In addition, we have released several competitive bids for new, improved space. The agency has studied customer and work flow, both in-house and with the help of a contracted architect/space planner. All new branches will have efficient, customer-friendly designs that will make a visit to the Registry easier.
Upgrades & Improvements to Branch Office Space
A number of our branches were in serious disrepair, including peeling paint, tattered carpets, and cluttered with unused office equipment and trash. To date we have ordered a complete facilities overhaul in 13 of our branches including fresh paint or wallpaper, intensive cleaning, new carpets or flooring, and constant up-keep of trash removal. The work has been accomplished by reaching out to landlords to accelerate lease-required improvements by convincing them that they are not meeting the standards we expect. We reached out to our employees who have pitched in throughout the state to clean and paint. A great deal of thanks go to the Executive Office of Public Safety and the Department of Corrections (DOC) for dedicating prison crews for many of our projects. Their assistance meant we could afford what we did within existing resources. Our purchase of materials, combined with labor provided by the DOC, allowed us to undertake this comprehensive effort. We have also moved old desks, chairs, file cabinets and other furniture out of the branches for more appropriate storage at our warehouse in Randolph and generally reduced the cluttered appearance of our offices.
IMPROVING CUSTOMER SERVICE
We have expended considerable effort on customer service, our number one priority. Within existing resources and our current technological constraints, we have implemented the following enhancements:
More Staff to Direct Customer Service
After a critical examination of how we operate in our branches, we instituted several changes to our procedures to allow for the equivalent of 63 more staff on the counters: a 24% increase. Inefficiencies were identified and eliminated. By streamlining our cash management procedures we were able to re-allocate 9.43 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff to direct customer service each day across the state. By making scheduling changes with staff we were able to add 20.36 FTEs. Employee schedules and peak customer flow were examined to determine if staff schedules adequately covered customer demand. Schedules were amended from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm to 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. The earlier opening has measurably improved customer convenience. By eliminating the Customer Service Representative position and replacing it with branch Greeters, and modifying their duties, we were able to add 34 FTEs. These additional 63.79 FTEs represents a 24% increase in direct customer service each day across the state in our RMV branches.
Extending Hours of Operation
As an additional benefit of changes in front-line staff management, we are now able to open at 8:30AM, one half hour earlier, at each of our full service branches. To reiterate, this was done within existing resources and without reducing output in other areas of branch operation.
Expanding Service Delivery
We recognize that some areas of the state are under-served. This results in the nearest branch or license express office being deluged with customers -- making the waits there always long. To address these problems we have made two significant improvements.
First, after discussions with Mayor Rurak of Haverhill, we were able to make a commitment to re-open a full service branch in City Hall. Haverhill had a full service branch until April of 1991. Since then we have offered only limited office hours, serving the city only one and one half days a week. For the Citys residents, the location is a bonus since any problems with outstanding excise or parking tickets can be resolved without ever having to leave the building. The unique partnership was made possible because the Mayor made space available for free in the recently vacated Police Department offices. The City is assisting with the costs of build-out of the space, and they are paying for all utilities except for phone usage. This will greatly benefit the residents of Haverhill and the surrounding communities -- some of whom have to travel in excess of 20 miles to the nearest Registry office in the City of Lawrence. We expect that the opening of Haverhill also will relieve the burden on the Reading, Beverly and Danvers branches. We are also opening a bulk processing center in the new Haverhill office for insurance agents, car dealerships and runners, called a RACE Unit, to address the demands by businesses in the area. The new, full service Haverhill branch is expected to open in January 2000.
Second, we have re-located our license express office in the Cambridgeside Galleria to a larger space with a more efficient configuration and expanded the number of license stations by 50%. This increase will address the long lines at one of our most popular express locations.
A significant improvement has been the establishment of Greeters in each of our 24 full-service branches. The RMV had experimented with Customer Service Representative(s) at each branch entrance to answer questions, pre-stage some transactions, review documents for accuracy, and assure quality of paperwork. The idea was well intentioned. However, in practice, it created a log jam at the office entrance. Only after standing in this line did one get a number for the queue to go to a counter. Once your number was called and you went to the counter, the clerk there would re-check the paperwork. Since it is that clerks ultimate responsibility to assure accuracy, the result was that customers waited twice with no significant benefit to them or the RMV. The Greeter now acts to triage customers needs and does the most useful parts of the Customer Service Representatives job. Greeters answer questions, hand out paperwork, pens, clip boards, and inform customers of problems which may keep them from completing their transaction (such as incorrect form of payment or lack of proper identification) before waiting in a queue. But the customer only waits once. Our experience is showing a real-time reduction in wait times and the jumble of people at the branch entrances.
Expanding Internet Services
Recognizing that we need to move more of the RMVs business into paperless transactions, we are expanding the information and the number of transactions available on the RMVs Internet site (www.massrmv.com). On-line customers with credit cards are able to renew registrations, request duplicate registrations, pay citations, and order special plates. All these previously could only be done in person, at one of our branches. One can also check Registry hours of operation, download the states drivers manual, and get information on voter registration, the states vehicle inspection program, and excise tax.
As of December 17, for anyone who has lost their physical license or Massachusetts ID, we have added both a "duplicate license" and "duplicate Mass ID" transaction. This represents a third alternative to customers in addition to going to a branch or calling our phone center. If only 25 percent of our customers take advantage of this new service, it would mean 2500 fewer people in branch offices each month.
A new "change of address" transaction is in the planning stages for the Internet. Today you can download from the RMV web site a change of address form to mail to the RMV. This new online change of address transaction would allow the customer to update their address and receive confirmation of the update via e-mail.
Another on-line transaction in the planning stages is the ability for the customer to check their license and registration status prior to coming to a branch office for renewal. Through an e-mail response from the RMV, they would be able to determine if they are in non-renewal status and receive the information about the cities/towns that have placed a non-renew mark on the customers file. All too often customers learn of impediments to renewals only after going to an RMV branch and waiting in line.
We have also increased our effort to promote the web site address. We have added our website address on all our mailing envelopes and other collateral materials.
Problem Resolution Desk -- Putting Managers Out Front
Our goal is to have a customer, whenever possible, complete a transaction in one visit to a branch. There are, however, many times that problems are not resolved because the branch manager has no authority to solve the problem. We are moving our managers out from their offices to a Problems Resolution Desk to achieve our goal. We are empowering them to make prudent decisions based upon their knowledge of the laws, regulations, policies, and procedures which govern the RMV. Today there remains too rigid an adherence to an overly bureaucratic chain of command for even the most simple, but infrequent, problems our customers face. We have delegated to our managers the authority to make those prudent decisions. The manager will now be able to solve specific customer problems such as authorizing the use of credit cards for extraordinary payments, functioning as a notary public, and approving issuance of next-day titles and duplicate titles. Further, authority to issue next-day handicapped placards will be in place as of February 1, 2000.
Established Ombudsman Office
Two experienced staff members are addressing particularly difficult or complex problems that come directly to our headquarters over the phone, by mail, or from walk-ins. They devote full-time to getting questions answered and the needs of customers addressed in rapid fashion. Since establishing this office in October, we have responded to more than 225 letters, 100 phone calls and 50 walk-ins.
Expanding Availability to RMV Hearings Officers
When the RMV notifies someone that we are about to take some action which will affect a license or registration, customers have the opportunity to contest the proposed action by attending a hearing with one of our hearings officers. Currently we do not have hearings officers in all branches. This occasionally requires long-distance travel by the public to a limited number of locations that provide this function. Therefore, we are in the process of moving forward on a pilot plan to establish a part-time hearings officer in the Pittsfield, North Adams, Northampton, New Bedford, North Attleboro and Plymouth branches. This would be accomplished by re-deploying staff from Springfield and Brockton. It is assumed that a hearings officer at these sites would reduce the lines for hearings at the Springfield and Brockton locations, as well as providing improved Registry services in a more geographically balanced and user-friendly manner.
This plan will be piloted for 2-3 months initially. Branch managers will be queried for input and suggestions at the end of the pilot period. Based upon branch feedback, coupled with the numbers of customers served at the new locations, we will be poised to increase customer services within existing staffing levels in these under-served areas of the state.
We have improved signage inside the branches to better direct customers. We have also heard numerous complaints about inadequate signage which directs RMV customers to their nearest branch. We have been working for the past two months with the MA Highway Department to conduct a site survey and remedy the situation with more signs. This process is currently underway. In some locations we have obtained permission to put direction signs in the parking areas and on roadways prior to the results of the site survey.
Copley Employees to Branches -- Pulling Together
In an effort to enhance agency cohesion and to better manage the holiday boom in volume, staff from our headquarters took time from their regular duties to work branch locations during one of our busiest weeks of the year -- the week between Christmas and New Years Day. As a result of a memorandum seeking volunteers, approximately 15 percent of our headquarters staff (73 people) volunteered to take on this duty; equaling 124 total person-days added to our regular staffing pattern. This extra effort by our employees is indicative of the changing attitudes at the RMV and one that demonstrates the furthering of a more unified agency. There has been a longstanding friction between "headquarters" and "the branches" that we are working to reduce. This is having a positive impact on staff morale by building a real team spirit.
Making the Wait a Bit More Pleasant -- Silent Radios, Books for Kids, etc.
In spite of our efforts to reduce long lines, we remain cognizant of the fact that people will still have to wait some period of time. So, we are looking for ways to make the experience a bit more pleasant. Through donations, we offer reading materials, coloring books and crayons for children, so that a wait at the RMV is at least as tolerable as a wait in ones doctors office.
Beginning in January 2000, we are also installing an electronic information service called "silent radio" for the general public in 12 of our branches. These devices are readable message boards that provide the latest news stories, sports scores, weather, movie reviews and stock quotations. There is no cost to the Commonwealth. It is borne completely by the distributor, who pays for the radios through advertising revenues. The RMV, however, has final approval for who advertises. We will also explore the possibility for local businesses to purchase advertising and post promotional offers between news items.
I. Streamlining Temporary License Procedures
In certain instances some customers require a one-day temporary license to perform a road test. The authority to approve this license was previously limited to the Director of Driver Licensing in Boston. This has now been delegated to the branch managers, eliminating an inefficient telephone call and approval process.
COMPETITION WORKING FOR US
The Registry is in the process of designing a branch office evaluation protocol. There are several criteria which will be evaluated, and results will be compared across branches. We believe that making these evaluations competitive will improve the performance of agency managers and staff and provide better service to the customer.
I. Customer Satisfaction Reports
The Registry has instituted a customer feedback system for branch offices. Each branch provides customers with postage paid comment cards. The cards are addressed directly to the Registrar, who reviews responses before they are catalogued and distributed to the branches. These cards provide valuable information about how the public is served at our branches. It is also a helpful tool in detecting patterns of poor service and, yes, even patterns of great service.
In October and November we received 1,667 cards from Registry customers. The ratings range from 1 point to 10 points on a series of questions, with 10 being the best service and 1 the worst service. The ratings in October ranged from 2 to 10. The average statewide was 6.7 points. The November ratings ranged from 1.5 points to 10 points. The average for that month was 7.5 points. Also, in November responses per branch increased, as did the number of branches represented. The detailed results are charted on a graph, these are then distributed to our managers and posted in branches.
Sick Leave Usage Reports
A big drain on branch resources is the loss of counter staff hours due to sick time usage. As much as 30% of branch staff time has been lost in some problem branches due to the abuse of this time. Sick leave usage reports will be generated monthly by branch and distributed to branch managers for their evaluation. Creative methods for reducing sick time usage is encouraged and branch manager performance evaluations will include this variable as an evaluation criteria. Inter-branch competition to reduce sick time use will be encouraged. This will increase the number of staff hours available for customer service.
Clerk Revenue Overages and Shortages
A bi-monthly report regarding clerk cash-handling performance is currently generated for use by the Internal Audit Unit. This report will be used by both branch managers and the Director of Field Operations to encourage clerks to reduce errors and facilitate properly trained employees.
PARTNERSHIPS TO REDUCE LINES
I. Expansion of the Electronic Vehicle Registration (EVR) Program
The Registry has licensed 346 auto dealerships to provide vehicle registration services to their customers. By enabling dealership staff to enter new registrations directly into the Registry database, we eliminate a trip to a branch office by either a customer or dealer runner. Only 15 qualified dealerships remain to be enrolled in this program.
Furthermore, electronic vehicle registration authority is expanding to include independent insurance agents. We have recently completed a pilot program with the agents and are preparing to roll it out across the state. To date, 19 agents are on-line. Our goal is to have 180 agents on-line within the next six months.
The EVR program is currently processing 28,000 transactions per month. This represents 25% of all agency monthly registration transactions. This level of effort will increase as the numbers of authorized dealers and agents on-line increases, further reducing the number of customers in branches and reducing wait times.
Plate Returns and Lost Plates
The practice of customers waiting in line simply to return canceled plates has been an unnecessary burden in branches. The ability to accept canceled plates has been expanded to insurance agents across the state. There are 577 agents on-line to the Registry database for the purposes of collecting canceled plates. They are processing 3,500 cancellations per month. This removes 3,500 customers from Registry branches.
ADDRESSING CARELESSNESS AND COMPUTER SNAFUS
Change of Address
Most address change information comes to the RMV from the customer. However, the Post Office has required us, as a bulk mailer, to validate our mailing addresses through the Post Office National Change of Address system. We must validate our entire file every six months. This has created some problems due to the way the Post Office change of address card is organized. It is not clear to the customer what "family move" means. Many customers ignore this check box on the Post Office card and submit the change of address to the Post Office. When the RMV validates its address files, it inherits the Post Offices default assumption that the entire family moved, even though the customers son or daughter was the only one to move from the residence. Too often this causes excise bills to be re-routed when some members of the household have, in fact, not moved. To put this in perspective, this can result in non-renewal status on that persons license and registration or even result in suspension. We are working with the Post Office to find a better way to communicate this information to the customer.
Letters and Language
We send out many letters to customers advising them of a change in their license or registration status. Almost all of the letters are written in "legalese" that most customers find confusing. We are working to change the style and language of the letters without compromising the integrity of the information.
We have reviewed every department for evidence that we provide conflicting information to customers. One area that we found that must be improved is the mailing of suspension letters. A number of people have their right to drive suspended each day. A letter is sent to the customer informing them of the suspension. When the suspension period ends, the customer, by law, must pay a reinstatement fee. The RMV receives the reinstatement payment, updates the customers record, then sends a letter to the customer telling them they are now reinstated. But a much smaller percent of people have multi-suspensions in place -- and here is where we confuse the customer. Another letter is sent saying they are suspended, for the second offense. We are working to correct this by combining all information to the customer into one easy-to-read format.
The RMV on-line traffic continues to grow rapidly due to demand from the numerous consumers of our data: law enforcement, insurance agents, auto dealerships, cities and towns and, of course, our branches.
Recently we upgraded our mainframe computer in Chelsea. The computer now runs at 220 "millions of instructions per second" (MIPS) which is up from the 160 MIPS just three months ago. This translates to faster service for the customer due to faster computer response times and higher reliability. At 160 MIPS our computer had been running at 100% capacity. We could not push anything through the machine faster because there was no capacity left and the computer was "crashing" more and more frequently. It will not be long before we hit the computer ceiling again, requiring additional upgrades.
REACHING OUR LIMITS:
When I began the job as Registrar, I made a commitment to the Governor, Lt. Governor and members of the Legislature that I would thoroughly evaluate the RMV and make a fair and accurate assessment of what could be done within existing resources and what additional resources would be needed to turn the Registry into a well-run operation.
As I have stated from the beginning, our new regime has a zero tolerance policy for long waits, discourteous behavior, untidy conditions at our branches, and careless inaccuracies. I hold true to those beliefs and work everyday to instill that same philosophy in our employees.
After three months of intensive examination, we have concluded that without additional resources we will not meet the publics expectations of quality service. Namely, we have identified a need for funding for a new phone system, computer upgrades, and additional staff. The concerns and criticism that have plagued this agency will, undoubtedly, continue without these additional resources. We are being asked to run faster, yet we have one leg tied to the other.
We are also busier than ever. That certainly helps to explain why lines at the RMV are getting longer. A strong economy means people buying and leasing cars at record pace. Today we have approximately 4.4 million drivers licensed and 5.1 million vehicles registered in Massachusetts. The passage of Motor Voter laws in 1994 means that the RMV now processes voter registrations, in addition to our more traditional work. Last year approximately 400,000 people registered to vote or changed their voting status at one of our branches.
For a fuller picture of our day-to-day challenges, we calculated the total RMV transactions for the first 11 months of 1995 compared to the first 11 months of 1999. In 1995 the totals were a staggering 7.4 million transactions across the entire RMV. In 1999 the total has jumped by some 30%, to 10.5 million transactions, in just five years. Meanwhile staffing and technology have not kept pace with our growing demands.
To meet these demands Governor Cellucci and Lieutenant Governor Swift have filed a Registry "Fix-it" bill for $16.6 million. The majority of that funding ($12.5 million) will be a one time cost for upgrading technology. The bill contains request for the following:
Phones: We operate with a phone system that, according to Bell Atlantic, receives more than 100,000 attempted calls each day, yet only 12,000 get through. That means seven of eight callers to the RMV receive a busy signal. What is even more frustrating is that there are a number of transactions that can be handled over the phone. Since the callers cant get through, they are forced to visit a branch.
The proposed phone system will incorporate state of the art technology with all of the features considered essential to customer service and satisfaction. Our telephone system request for quotes specifies a comprehensive set of features and capabilities needed to meet our service and productivity objectives. These include:
CTI Functions - Provides capability to link and display selected license and registration data and deliver both the call and the data to an agent without the agent requesting the data separately. The data screens can be transferred to other agents and departments along with the call itself.
Predictive Wait: - Informs callers of the estimated wait time until connected to an agent.
Leave/Return to Queue - Allows callers to listen to recorded messages without losing their place in the service queue.
Skills Based Routing - Routes the call to the most qualified available agent based on the callers key pad responses to prompts.
Call Prompting -routes call using Integrated Voice Recognition technology (IVR) .
Call Back Request - Callers can leave a message to request a return call.
Automated Call Wrap-Up - Allows agent to perform a number of tasks, after the call is ended, including send a FAX or E-mail, update data base,
create a call history, etc.
Automated Data Retrieval - Using keypad inputs from callers, it will provide recorded messages, send faxes, provide directions to branches, etc.
Customer Survey - Using IVR or key pad responses, conduct general or specific customer service satisfaction surveys at the end of a call.
Common Knowledge Data Base - A comprehensive reference library of information available to all Registry employees. An agent scripting technique allows accurate information to be displayed and read to a caller.
Additionally, the request for quote specifies that the hardware and software must be flexible enough to provide a full range of options in terms of capacity, number of locations served and compatibility with current and future technology developments. One example of this technology is a Web based call center.
Computers: The computers at the RMV are "green screen", a now antiquated model purchased in the 1980's. As they continue to fail, we continue to search for used replacement parts, which most of the time are unavailable. This system fails often, leaving our branches without the necessary technology to conduct daily transactions, and leaving customers in line, shaking their heads in frustration. As we approach this new millennium, technology will be one of our most valuable assets in terms of quality customer service.
Our plan is to replace all 700 "green screen" terminals and 500 printers with state-of-the-art computers. The new computers will be six times faster than the computers in our offices today. A new network will also be installed to support our branch office operations. This network, when fully implemented, will be 10 times faster than the present network. In addition to increased reliability, the new computers will allow the RMV to lower the cost of credit card transactions with the addition of credit card receipt printers and debit card personal identification number (PIN) entry pads.
Staffing:. As I have traveled across the state, the most common complaint I hear about the RMV is that there are just not enough people to work the windows. When the public enters a branch to see two, three or more empty windows, yet the lines stretch out the door, this causes exasperation. It is also difficult for the clerks who have to face unhappy customers each day. The Cellucci/Swift bill requests funding for an additional 200 employees. Nearly 150 of these employees will be dedicated to the branches. Our analysis allows us to conclude that the requested staffing levels should bring the average wait time in our branches at or under 30 minutes.
"Q-matic" Systems: There are also other aspects of the bill that will bring much needed consistency to our branches. We currently have six branches with so-called "Q-matic" systems. This computerized system is like a smart deli ticket which helps customers know which line they need to be in, how long their wait will be, and, in addition, management is able to monitor traffic at the branches from a central database to determine if additional help is needed at any given branch.
Expanding Credit Card Transactions: Only a subset of our branches accept credit cards for some transactions. It is illogical that you can pay by Discover, Visa or MasterCard for a license but you have to pay cash for a registration in the same branch. This bill will allow for credit card acceptance to each of the branches for every transaction.
Expanding Hours: To support the RMVs new focus on customer service, the Cellucci/Swift bill will launch a pilot program that will expand hours of operation at 14 branches across the state from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
In conclusion, we strongly believe that the Registry "Fix-it" bill is a sound investment for the Commonwealth. More than two million people visit the Registry each year. The RMV has an annual budget of approximately $61 million. We generate and collect about $900 million each year for the state: $350 million in license, registration, and title fees alone. We are second only to the Department of Revenue as a source of income to the Commonwealths coffers. Today the millions of drivers in Massachusetts are paying for excellent service many times over, but receiving less. They deserve to get quality service from an agency that their hard-earned money helps to support each year.