Theresa Freed 0:00 The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Johnson County delivers its services in many ways. Some for the better. On this episode, hear from Johnson County motor vehicle about the new emphasis on self service and what that means for you.
Announcer 0:13 Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.
Theresa Freed 0:26 Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go, I'm your host Theresa Freed, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. The Johnson County motor vehicle department certainly had to rethink how it does business when the pandemic hit. Although it already had some great self service options before, now you can do even more without stepping foot in the office. Here to talk more about that is Kristen Walters with the Johnson County Treasury and Financial Management department. Thanks for being here.
Kristen Walters 0:53 Thank you for having me, Theresa.
Theresa Freed 0:55 All right. Well, first off, just tell us a little bit about your role with the county.
Kristen Walters 0:59 Sure, I have the pleasure of serving as one of the managers for a motor vehicle office with Johnson County. I'm located in our mission office.
Theresa Freed 1:10 Okay, and can you talk a little bit about how the pandemic has impacted the motor vehicle office,
Kristen Walters 1:15 We closed both of our offices in this spring for about a month and in response to the pandemic. During that time, we focused on alternative opportunities to provide service to the community. And then we came up with multiple self service options when we reopen offices.
Theresa Freed 1:34 And can you talk a little bit about those self service options?
Kristen Walters 1:38 Sure, Johnson County was able to create a title drop off service. And that allowed residents to avoid the wait in line at the office and instead submit their documentation and application for titling their motor vehicle through drop boxes located outside of the motor vehicle offices.
Theresa Freed 1:59 And I assume those are very secure. Can you talk about that?
Kristen Walters 2:03 Yes, they certainly are. There's a drop box located outside of the Olathe office as well as one outside of the Mission office. They are secured and locked. And they also are video recorded for surveillance as well. So they're checked daily, and we make sure that we have processes in place to keep the documentation secure.
Theresa Freed 2:25 So can you talk a little bit about what kinds of documents can be dropped off in those locations? And which ones have to actually come physically into the office?
Kristen Walters 2:33 Yes, almost anything can be either mailed in or dropped in the drop box. And of course titling of vehicles are the applications that we received the most for recently purchased or newly purchased vehicles. We also can accept registration renewals, lien releases applications for handicapped placards, and sold vehicle refunds. Really, there's no reason to wait in line in the offices when we have as many self service options as we do.
Theresa Freed 3:05 And so what has been the traffic like coming into the office and those drop boxes, you know, especially compared to before?
Kristen Walters 3:13 Yeah, we have seen quite an increase in our self service utilization since the pandemic started. And for titling vehicles, we have almost 30% of our titling transactions utilizing mail in our drop off services. And and so that's really helped us promote social distancing between customers who are visiting the offices.
Theresa Freed 3:35 And that's another important items to talk about, what are some of the things that you guys have done, in addition to just making the self service options more readily available to customers? What are some of the other things you've done to help combat the pandemic?
Kristen Walters 3:50 The most significant strategy that we've put in place is changing our line management system. To control customer capacity on a daily basis, we open our queuing system for customers to join online in the mornings at 730. And once we reach the number of customers that we can safely serve within a day while promoting social distancing, we close those lines down. So typically, that can be at 830 or 930 in the morning, depending how many individuals are joining. And once we reach that customer capacity for the day, we no longer accept additional customers in the line.
Theresa Freed 4:29 So that's been, I know a place where you guys have gotten quite a few questions just where people will go to sign up for the day and the spots will already be filled. What kinds of other assistance are you able to provide residents so that they can make sure that they get things done more timely.
Kristen Walters 4:47 That's what's so great about the self service options is, not only is it more efficient for us when we're processing those transactions, it's also more efficient for our customers who can avoid that wait in line or if they're trying to get in line and unable to for the day, they can come in, our ambassador can give them a drop off application, walk them through how to use that and then they can submit that. We can handle all the invoicing and payments remotely as well. So they can submit those online or through the mail. And we can continue to get them served even if there aren't, they aren't able to join the line that day.
Theresa Freed 5:25 Alright. So this is probably a good opportunity to also remind everyone that Johnson County motor vehicle is not the same as driver's licenses. So can you talk about that distinction?
Kristen Walters 5:35 Sure, Johnson County motor vehicle just is titling and registering of vehicles, we do not offer driver's license services. Instead, residents should contact the Kansas Department of Revenue if they have a driver's license renewal or transaction that they need to complete.
Theresa Freed 5:54 All right, and can you talk about? What's the traffic been like on your website? Have you seen quite a few people turning there instead of walking into the office asking their questions and things like that?
Kristen Walters 6:05 Yes, we have seen quite a bit of website traffic. And we also have emails that we check on a daily basis for drop off services. And so customers who have questions about self service options can reach us at [email protected]. And we're happy to get them any forms or applications that they might need. That way. We also can answer questions through that email address. All of the information for how to use title drop off or other self service options are found at our website.
Theresa Freed 6:39 Now, I know last time, we talked to motor vehicle on the podcast, we've discussed a little bit about some of those popular questions that you guys get and you know, just sort of the the typical things that you see on a day to day basis. I imagine that may have changed just a little bit. What are some of the common questions that you're getting there at the office? And how can we address those?
Kristen Walters 7:00 Sure, I think the most common questions are how do we complete a certain transaction usually titling of a vehicle. And so we encourage you to visit our website and look at the title drop off application, it walks you through exactly what documentation you need to complete how to get that submitted, and how your invoicing and payment will be received. And we also have a lot of questions about how to complete handicap placards, how to get 60 day permits. And so again, all of that information is on our website.
Theresa Freed 7:35 And just out of curiosity, you know with the pandemic, it seems like maybe car buying is down is are you seeing some of that? Or maybe maybe that's not the case at all? What are you seeing in terms of trends?
Kristen Walters 7:49 Not as much as we expected to. We have actually been fairly busy. And we typically see our transaction volume slow down in December, and we have been as busy as ever for this month. So we think that folks are still trying to catch up from transactions they weren't able to complete during office closures, or during the governor's extension for titling and registering. So more offices are still busy. And we're still here happy to help residents.
Theresa Freed 8:17 And you mentioned catching up, I know that the offices were closed temporarily on Monday, so you guys could catch back up. Can you talk a little bit about why that was done and how you guys were still serving the public during that time?
Kristen Walters 8:30 Sure, this fall, we did make the decision to close on Mondays, so that we could catch up on the title backlog from our offices being closed in the spring. And we were able to catch up on quite a bit of that backlog. We also had just opened the title drop off service and that resulted in a high volume of transactions that were being submitted. And we were able to dedicate all of our staff for a full day each week to complete those transactions and get caught up on that backlog.
Theresa Freed 9:05 And again, the offices are back open on Mondays now. So people can go in those regular hours that they're seeing on the website. Is that right?
Kristen Walters 9:12 Yes, that's correct.
Theresa Freed 9:15 And although we're seeing more of the Self Service options being utilized right now, because of the pandemic, this is something that you guys would like to see continue is that right?
Kristen Walters 10:00 Yes, absolutely at this point we found that drop off and mailing services, online services are much more efficient for us and processing and invoicing than waiting in line to serve a customer. And so we feel like that's more positive experience for our customers as well being able to avoid that wait in line and not having to plan their day around a trip to motor vehicle.
Theresa Freed 10:25 Alright, that makes sense and lots of good information in where you can go to get even more information. Can you remind us again of your website?
Kristen Walters 10:33 Yes, our website is joco gov.org/residents/vehicles.
Theresa Freed 10:40 All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us and providing that great information and thanks for listening.
Announcer 10:45 You just heard JoCo on the Go, join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast, visit jocogov.org/podcast. Thanks for listening