RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In Virginia, the Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) customer service centers and mobile operations teams continue to operate by appointment only. But several local residents have reported challenges with making appointments, which become available each day through a 90-day period.
One such resident is Terrie Scherer. She reported to WFXR’s sister station that she visited the DMV location on West Broad Street on Tuesday, June 1 to pick up a form for a change of address request, and was surprise to see an estimated one-third of the customer service representatives not working with customers.
“I was a little bit perturbed because I looked around and saw that several of the counters were empty. There weren’t that many people there,” Scherer said. “Why couldn’t they just change my address while I was there, like they used to?”
This could be due to the number of no-shows the DMV has dealt with in recent months. According to DMV data, approximately 630,000 residents did not come for their scheduled time slot, out of the roughly 3.5 million appointments made over the course of the pandemic.
“We encourage customers to plan ahead,” Virginia DMV Public Relations and Media Liason Jessica Cowardin said. “Customers who anticipate their DMV needs early can plan to obtain service through the service channel that works best for them.”
For Scherer, the service channel that works best is in person.
“I’ve been a victim of fraud twice and it was through the internet,” she said. “Either way — internet, mailing — there is a vulnerability with both processes that I would’ve rather done it in person.”
But according to the DMV, the vast majority of transactions conducted since the department started reopening customer service centers in May 2020 have been completed by service delivery methods other than at an office, such as online or by mail.
“The DMV is conducting more transactions across all service channels now than pre-pandemic,” Cowardin said.
The DMV is referring those without internet access to call the Customer Contact Center number at (804) 497-7100. But since she was already at her local DMV, Scherer tried to get help in person.
“The place was fairly empty,” she said. “[The customer service representative] handed me the form. She already had them preprinted and handy — fairly handy — so she handed me the form, and when I asked her where I turn this in within their department or within the DMV, she said, ‘Well, you have to mail it in.'”
Scherer said that she then asked the customer service representative for assistance in scheduling appointment, but was reportedly told that it couldn’t be done — she would have to go home and make an appointment online or over the phone.
However, Cowardin said that customer service representatives do have the ability to reschedule appointments when customers, for whatever reason, are unable to complete the service for which the original appointment was scheduled.
But for senior citizens like Ed Brightwell, making an appointment is not the only challenge to overcome.
“The idea of having to make an appointment to do something that’s routine or used to be routine — it’s now mandatory you have an appointment,” Brightwell said. “It just doesn’t seem necessary, especially when they’re so overstaffed — at least, it seems to me they’re overstaffed.”
Brightwell said that he went to the DMV on West Broad Street in Richmond back in February for assistance with his identification card. He told WFXR’s sister station that he didn’t know about the appointment requirement because he doesn’t have a phone or internet. He also doesn’t drive, and has to rely on others or public transportation to get around.
“I’ve wasted my time and efforts and someone else’s time to help me get there,” Brightwell said. “I’d like to see some changes made and would make it more compatible for the public to be served. They’re working for us.”
Although the DMV denied WFXR’s sister station’s request for an interview, Cowardin forwarded a statement. It reads, in part:
Opportunities for June 15 and beyond have been added to the calendar, creating approximately 46,000 more appointment opportunities. Another round of appointments will be added on June 15 for the remainder of the month. We are also planning to open additional slots into July as we continue to hire and train new employees to create additional appointment opportunities. Our appointment system is working for us right now. In fact, customers are overwhelmingly supportive of the new process. We are actually conducting more transactions across all service channels now than we were pre-pandemic. The vast majority of the 15 million transactions conducted since DMV started reopening offices last May have been completed by methods other than in person.
Cowardin also noted that the DMV is working to compensate for those who do not show up for their appointment by double and triple booking appointment times, based on data trends the department is seeing.
“We are also seeing customers scheduling multiple appointments. We are making every effort to identify and cancel duplicates,” Cowardin said. “Customers can help by not booking more than one appointment for the same service and canceling an appointment when no longer needed or they are unable to make it. Both not showing up for an appointment and scheduling multiple appointments takes opportunities away from those who need in-person service.”