Unless you’re a 16-year-old going to get a driver’s license for the first time — remember how exhilarating that was? — most of us don’t exactly look forward to the once-every-six-years chore of visiting a licensing office.
By DONNA SHELITE
Special to The Star
My goal is to change that for you, and, in Kansas, we are taking action to significantly improve your experience the next time you visit us.
For the past two summers, we have opened our doors for business on Mondays in our state’s busiest license offices, including Mission this summer, to help with the increase of seasonal customers. Both years, more than 4,500 people have taken advantage of the additional summer hours.
I’m pleased to announce that, with this service proving popular, we will permanently offer Monday business hours in our largest offices, including Mission and Olathe, starting this month.
This will be first time in almost 30 years that any state licensing office has been open year-round on Mondays — and will add about 50 new days of service each year for our customers.
Next up is a pilot project this fall offering evening hours four nights a week in our Johnson County offices in Mission and Olathe. If this pilot is successful, we plan to make this permanent as well and expand evening hours to other large offices.
These are just two steps we’ve taken to make drivers’ license renewals more pleasant.
We’re adding staff in our Andover, Mission and Olathe offices, and we soon will be opening a new Sedgwick County location in Derby, giving the state’s second-largest county two license offices for the first time in a decade.
Because of increased population and customer traffic, we have expanded our offices in Olathe, Andover and Manhattan, moving out of cramped spaces where customers sometimes had to wait in lines outside in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The moves added 60 percent more space in Olathe and tripled the office space in Andover.
The newer, larger spaces — the first in almost two decades for all three sites — will allow us to better keep up with those growing communities years into the future.
Another area we have focused on is improving technology and the processes.
In six busy offices, including Olathe and Mission, we have installed a line management tool that allows customers the choice of “getting in line” using their computers or cell phones. Because they then have virtual tickets, customers don’t have to physically wait in the office; instead, they can run errands, work or do other activities. The system alerts them via text message as their turn for service approaches.
Further, last year, license offices switched to a “photo first” process in which an applicant’s photo is taken at the start of the process, and one employee handles the transaction from start to finish. This eliminates the need to stand in multiple lines and increases the security of the licensing process, helping to cut down on identify fraud.
In addition to making the process more secure, in October, the department began issuing an award-winning license design that makes a Kansas driver’s license and identification cards among the hardest to forge in the country.
Let me be clear: While we’ve made these improvements, we only just begun our changes to provide the level of service we want to provide and that you expect.
You have my commitment that we will continue the momentum that is now underway, thanks to expanded hours and staff, larger offices and improved technology.
We’re continually looking at ways to improve customer service and efficiency so that you will be in the driver’s seat during your next visit to us.
Donna Shelite is the Kansas director of vehicles. To submit an As I See It piece, send an essay of no more than 700 words to Grace Hobson at email@example.com.