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  • Writer's pictureAnn Logothetis Neale

Life is a highway

“I can’t wait to get to the DMV to renew my driver’s license,” said no one ever.

I’ve had my share of less-than-stellar experiences at the DMV, and they were undeniably on my mind when I approached the imposing gray building. It was a dreary day in Chicago, and I was gearing myself up for what was bound to be a very trying morning.

I tried to time my visit to avoid “DMV rush hour,” but realized that I must have miscalculated as soon as I opened the door to a sea of people assorted into various queues, lines and mazes.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that “attitude is everything.” Let’s do this!

This particular DMV houses multiple bureaucracies, and the space is designed into various stations to process all the people in need of services. The first gate was an actual maze that snaked back and forth throughout a jam-packed foyer. For a fleeting moment, it sort of reminded me of standing in line at an amusement park … only more boring and with no thrill ride at the end.

After a couple hundred quarter-steps through the line, I finally met the first bureaucrat, who was there to make sure I had the right paperwork and direct me on to the appropriate area of the building.

Without any eye contact, he handed me a slip of paper then shouts, “NEXT!” After stumbling around for a moment, I figured out I was supposed to join the huddled masses in the room next door and wait for my number to be called.

I’m number 487J and they’re on 117C when I find an empty chair among the hundreds of occupied ones. After an eternity, I finally advanced to the next station for my interrogation, which quickly concludes with a, “Go over there.”

But “over there” wasn’t at all obvious, at least not to me.

I could feel things unraveling, and I hadn’t even gotten to the vision test yet. I have a sinking feeling that my journey is going to conclude with a very, very bad photo that I’ll be stuck with for the next 4 years.

That’s when it happened.

A security guard off to the side approached me to help clarify where I was supposed to go next. He must have seen the lost look on my face.

He explained that it happens all day long and walked with me to the next station. We made small talk. It was a nice moment that I certainly wasn’t expecting from the guy with the badge and gun.

Think about it -- his job is to watch people and look out for trouble. And in all his years of watching people, he saw a pattern: People got really confused at that one particular point in their processing.

And in that one moment, his gesture completely turned my DMV experience around.

So who are the customer-service heroes at your company? Who is best equipped to understand how to make your customers’ experience better? Find out who spends the most time paying attention to your customers, and you probably have your answer.

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