Musings: Summer 2020
How are you communicating with your community and customers in this extraordinary time?
Rhonda Lahm, Director, Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles
This pandemic has made it crystal clear that intentional, accurate and timely communication is more important than ever before. A vacuum of information leads to rumors and inconsistencies. Incorrect or inaccurate information spreads rapidly, and once it’s out there, it is incredibly difficult to correct. Many events are outside of our control and, more often than not during this pandemic, we do not have all the answers.
We have aimed to be honest and to share the information we do have, doing so through as many trusted voices as possible. By planning how, when and through whom we share information, we have reached a wider audience than we normally would. This has allowed our residents to hear the same message from the State DMV also being delivered by our Highway Safety Partners, county officials, trucking associations, third-party testers and driver training schools.
By leveraging our network of partners, we have not only been able to readily spread our message, but also receive feedback from a range of perspectives. This allowed the department to respond to needs as they arose, such as continuing to deliver CDL services. As our service availability becomes more widespread throughout the state, we have been able to use this feedback to help us determine where to deploy resources most effectively and how to adjust our approach to service delivery.
We implemented a similar approach with our teammates, gathering feedback and adjusting to circumstances as they arose. With the effective use of executive orders and by remaining flexible in how we provide services, we were able to continue service with teammates working remotely or on other tasks which usually seem to slip to the bottom of the priority list. Some of our teammates used the opportunity to make over one of our offices. Others were able to complete relocation work and get caught up on some administrative tasks such as policy and training development. This flexibility of approach allowed us to continue to deliver accurate, secure and innovative services throughout the pandemic.
Terry Walsh, Communications Specialist, Wisconsin Office of Public Affairs
Due to COVID-19, thousands of Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) customers delayed visiting a DMV customer service center and were waiting to complete their driver’s license tasks. Wisconsin DMV launched two new pilot programs to address the backlog of demand while keeping customers and DMV staff safe:
- Online driver’s license renewals for customers between the ages of 18 and 64;
- Road test waivers for drivers ages 16 and 17.
These pilot programs, which the DMV estimates will impact nearly 100,000 Wisconsin drivers, offer new ways to obtain driver’s licenses without the need to visit a DMV.
To ensure comprehensive communication of the pilot programs, the agency turned to several social media channels, including YouTube, Facebook and the agency podcast:
- Using virtual meeting technology, WisDOT secretary-designee Craig Thompson and DMV administrator Kristina Boardman announced the new pilot programs during a live-streaming news conference on YouTube. Reporters from all over the state participated in the opportunity and were able to ask questions following the presentation. The YouTube video continues to draw viewers; more than 2,000 to date.
- To provide an opportunity to connect directly with customers, Boardman participated in a Facebook Live session. The road test waiver announcement drew hundreds of questions from parents. Boardman spoke directly to viewers for more than 20 minutes and answered questions in real time. The Facebook session reached nearly 44,000 people, yielded 18,000 video views and had more than 6,000 engagements.
- Thompson and Boardman also discussed the details of the new pilot programs for an episode of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s “Transportation Connects Us” podcast. The DMV pilot program episode has been downloaded approximately 300 times since its release.
Whitney Nichels, Media Relations Manager, Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration
The COVID-19 health crisis has certainly changed the way the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) communicates with its employees and customers. Since the branch office closures on March 20, MDOT MVA has sent weekly emails and hosted virtual town halls to ensure all staff members are up to date on topics such as the REAL ID extension, upcoming customer service system upgrades and protective measures MDOT MVA is taking in response to the current health crisis. Additionally, MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer regularly answers calls and emails from employees and has been visiting various branch offices as employees are beginning in-person training.
It is also important that we are in constant communication with our customers during this unprecedented time. We continue to use social media, most recently Facebook Live, as a major communicative tool to inform our customers of what services are available online, and other ways in which they can continue to take care of MDOT MVA business despite the closure. Since our offices closed in March, we have seen a dramatic increase in our social media engagement. We had more than 70,000 engagements during March and April, which is a more than 1,000% increase from the previous two months. This also gives MDOT MVA a chance to provide important resources and answer frequently asked questions. Additionally, we set up an email address and phone line for customers with questions related to emergency business needs, like obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or registering fleet vehicles needed to bring resources to Marylanders, that leadership is monitoring daily.