Wed08202014

Technology bites: A Piece of My Mind

The new automated DMV! Make an appointment online! Or with our voice-recognition phone system! Or with a real person via our call-back system – no more waiting on hold!

Not! Or at least, not always.

My sweet, silver-haired mother is at that age where she must renew her driver’s license every year. I agreed that she would make the appointment online and I would accompany her down to the Santa Clara office.

That evening I asked how her day was going. She moaned, “I’ve been trying to make that appointment with the DMV, and it won’t let me do it. It says I have to call an 800 number, and I tried it, but I was on hold for over 15 minutes and gave up.”

“Poor Mom,” I thought condescendingly. “Just can’t cope anymore with computers.” So I went over to her house to set things straight.

I fill out the online form: First Name, Last Name, Address, Drivers License number, etc. Submit. Red print fills the screen: “Your license number and name do not match our records. Please check spelling and number and try again. If you need assistance, please dial 1-800-” etc.

I check. First Name on Mom’s driver’s license lists both her first and maiden names. OK, so I type both names in at the First Name prompt, check spelling carefully, check that I use zeros instead of O’s where needed, then submit. Red print fills the screen again.

My condescension has evaporated. Mom is not the issue.

So I dial the 1-800 number and select the “Make an Appointment” option from the recorded menu. A voice-recognition recording requests Name, Address, Phone number, address, etc. After providing data scrupulously for five minutes, I am told by the recorded voice, “Our service is not available at this time. Please try again later.” Click.

I redial and choose a different option from the recorded menu, “Talk to a technician.” I am told via recording that the wait time will be between “1 … hour and … 1 … hour and … 17 … minutes.” I choose the option for a call back rather than sitting on hold. The recording assures me that I “will not lose my place in the queue.”

Mom and I sit around chatting and taking care of some paperwork. Finally, approximately 65 minutes later, we get a call. It is a recorded message: “This is the DMV callback system. If you are (my mother’s name), please press 1. If you need time to get (my mother’s name) to the phone, please press 2.” I press 1.

The recording begins, “The response you have given is not valid. If you are (my mother’s name), please press 1. If you need time to get (my mother’s name) to the phone, please press 2.” I press 1 again, firmly. No good. What is with my mom’s phone? After the fourth round, the recording says, “You have exceeded the maximum amount of time allowed to respond. Goodbye.” Click.

Technology – phooey!

The next day Mom gets on the phone again and reaches a real person, who sets her up quickly with appointments for a provisional license and a later driving test. The appointment the next day at the DMV involves minimal waiting and friendly, efficient clerks.

Let’s hear it for real, live people! Down with the machines!

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