In 2003, I had a single-minded focus, get my drivers license. Like most 16 year olds, getting my license meant freedom, and I was ready to take any measure necessary to achieve the open road. But one thing stood in my way, the dreaded DMV. I can remember vividly waiting in line for over four hours to reach the counter, only to find out I was missing an essential document and would have to come back another day. To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement.
Now, teens and adults alike in Texas can get their drivers license online. With a simple click of the mouse they are able to circumvent the DMV lines. But the relationship doesn't stop there, Texas.gov also seeks to engage citizens as they go through the registration process.
Erin Hutchins is the General Manager and Director of Portal Operations at Texas.gov. She told me during GovLoop's State and Local Spotlight interview that moving services online isn't just good for citizens, but it makes government more efficient as well.
At Texas.gov we work really hard to provide the best possible interface with our constituents. That is the whole point of the Texas.gov site and the services that we provide. If you are a constituent there are a number of different ways you interact with us, either because you have to (have to renew your license). There are other ways that you can engage with us in other ways too, like petitions that are not forced," said Hutchins.
Focus on online
"We have some very interesting engagement methods at Texas.gov where we have really focused our design for the state portal as well as our online services on improving the way our citizens are really interacting with us and creating conversations. For example, when you get to the end of a driver’s license renewal - a place where you have to do something with us - and at the end we ask you to tell your friends, tweet, Facebook what you have just done. You can also write us back and ask us any questions that you want via our facebook page or our twitter feed and give us some ideas to improve with our guest satisfaction options," said Hutchins.
What has response the public response been like?
"We don’t have thousands of our users actually taking the time to provide that interactive feedback, but we do actually get a number of folks, particularly on the professional licensing, drivers license transactions, motor vehicle registration kinds of functions write us. They say things like , ‘I completed this transaction and it was incredibly successful.’ said Hutchins.
Government gets in on the conversation
"Yu will often hear our staff say, 'People are having the conversation with you and about you - and always have been - constituents have been in the world saying this is what government is doing right this is what they are doing wrong. Gosh if they only did this it would be so helpful.' Previously, those comments were going into a bit of a blackhole and government wasn’t really hearing it. There was a little fear for awhile about engaging in social media contact with our constituency. But we decided, they are saying these things anyway, we might as well be part of the conversation and see if we can’t turn some of that messaging around," said Hutchins.
"The license renewal page is the number three page on the entire Texas.gov site. Furthermore, of the eligible population to renew your drivers license online about 50% are using our online service. That is a pretty amazing percentage for sure," said Hutchins.
"'Always available' is the core message of our marketing and public communications outreach. We are always trying to drive that interaction to a place and time that is convenient for the constituent and benefit the agency through some of the efficiencies that can be gained there. One of the primary examples of 'always engaged' is some our mobile functionality. Texas.gov in and of itself was designed with responsive design. So you can access it effectively from your desktop, smartphone or tablet. Most of our online services also use responsive design so you can complete those transactions on alternative forms so you are not just locked down to your desktop," said Hutchins.
"One of the things we do is focus very heavily on our measurements and our metrics. We have a real investment on our analytics and our services. One of the things we discovered was about 8% of our user base uses some sort of mobile technology to interact with us. So if we are going to continue to grow that population we knew we needed to make that investment in responsive design so we could have that engagement," said Hutchins.
Why does good customer service matter?
"Customer service matters because we are focused on driving efficiencies and doing good by the taxpayer funds. We are fundamentally stewards of the state. If we are not providing a good service, that doesn’t meet the constituent needs they are not going to adopt the service. If they don't adopt the service than the efficiencies that we would expect to see from the online services are not realized. In order for us to be good stewards of state funds we need to be driving efficiencies and pointing the resources of that state in the right direction," said Hutchins.