The best customer-service experience I’ve ever had

I applied for a job that asked me to write a few short essays on topics germane to the role. One of them, as this post’s title says, was to tell about an amazing customer-service experience I’ve had. You might enjoy the story.

I had an amazing customer service experience with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Yes, you read that right — the BMV. It showed me that persistence and savvy can solve a thorny customer problem.

It was 1994. My license was due to expire so I went to the nearest license branch to renew it. The clerk said, “Mr. Grey, the computer says you renewed your license at the Lawrence branch last month.” That was 90 miles from where I was standing. I’d never been to that town.

Dog in the wayback

This happened long before the phrase “identity theft” had been coined, long before data security was any kind of concern. We were all incredibly careless with our personal information then. It was common to have your Social Security number printed on your checks! Mine was. Heck, until just a few years before this story happened, your SSN was your driver’s license number in Indiana. Clerks at Kroger used to validate the checks I used to pay for my groceries by making sure the SSN on my check matched my driver’s license number. It was madness.

This problem was beyond the clerk’s authority, so she gave me a number to call. The representative who answered lacked the authority to help me as well. “I’m not even sure who can help you with this,” she said. “But I’ll find out. Give me a number where I can reach you. Here’s my number in case you don’t hear from me in the next day or so.”

That day-or-so stretched into a couple weeks, with that rep and I calling each other every few days to check in. She tried office after office at the BMV until she found someone both with the authority and the willingness to take on my case.

The woman who now had my case was some sort of upper-level manager. After I mailed her documentation that proved my identity to her satisfaction, she told me what she knew. “We think someone walked into the Lawrence branch claiming they were you and that they had lost their license card, sweet talked a clerk, and walked out with a license in your name but with their photo on it.”

License plate

“This is not going to be easy, but I am going to do everything I can to resolve this for you,” she said. “I will take this all the way to the BMV Commissioner if I have to, and I may have to.” She advised me to check my credit reports and criminal records in several Indiana counties to see if my impostor was doing dirty deeds in my name. She gave me her phone number so I could stay in touch.

It took her weeks to sort it out, working with various BMV offices to coordinate the solution. She authorized an entirely new driver’s license number for me and put an alert on my old record that the license was fraudulent. “You need to know that we’ve never done anything like this, not in all the years I’ve been here. But we allowed this problem to happen and it is on us to fix it for you. By the way, if the police pull the impostor over for speeding,” she said, “he’ll find himself in handcuffs!”

I was lucky; my credit did not get torched and the sheriff did not appear at my door because of something my impostor did. There was an upside for me, though. The BMV’s ancient computer couldn’t transfer my driving record to my new license, which made two speeding tickets disappear. Poof!

What made this a great customer service experience was:

  • Persistence. Everybody I encountered worked hard on this problem, jumping hurdles and removing obstacles, until it was resolved.
  • Savvy. The BMV was a giant state bureaucracy, with miles of red tape. The customer-service rep and the upper-level manager both knew how to navigate it expertly.


11 responses to “The best customer-service experience I’ve ever had”

  1. traveller858 Avatar

    I love this story. I’m not sure folks would go to that much trouble nowadays.
    Let’s hope BMV don’t follow your bogs though eh!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m just relieved I found someone at the BMV who had the authority and expertise to solve the problem! I might have had to move to another state just to get a valid driver’s license otherwise!

  2. J P Avatar

    Your story boils down to one person working hard to help another. This is my biggest problem with the increased automation and systemization of modern life – people like that lady at the BMV are getting harder to find.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      For routine stuff I’m happy to deal with automation. For challenging stuff — get me to a human, fast!

  3. Fabb Florals Avatar

    As someone who has been in and out of customer service for more than a decade, I can appreciate this story! It is so refreshing when you feel you are treated right as a customer. I’m sorry to hear this happened to you, but it is awesome that you felt so taken care of–especially in a situation like that. I’m glad it all got resolved!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Mistakes happen. It’s how you fix them that counts!

      1. Fabb Florals Avatar


  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I find this especially hard to believe about any govt. stuff in Indiana, but it is an illustration of how one person that takes an interest in your plight can change the world for you! The 4 years I was in Indiana, I was actually really well treated at the DMV office in Brownsburg. Efficient and educated people getting the job done. I always went back there (and it was on the way to my favorite cigar lounge!).

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The BMV went through a transformation in the early 2000s, going from the least efficient, least friendly state office to the best on those counts. The transformation was stunning!

  5. Heide Avatar

    What a wonderful story, Jim! (Except for the identity theft part, of course.) As Andy Umbo said, it’s a perfect example of the difference one human being can make when they truly make an effort.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s the heart of customer service right there!

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