Michigan drivers do not have to visit a Secretary of State branch office to renew their plates. Over the years, the agency that issues plates and driver’s licenses has come up with ways for people to avoid waiting in long lines at branches.
But for those who do visit, it still takes a long time to do business — too long, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
“Too many offices, the wait times are unacceptable.” — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
Benson was elected in 2018. Since then, she has visited all 131 branch offices statewide. She says she witnessed first-hand the challenges to improving customer service.
“The conditions under which people had to sit and wait were deplorable.” Benson says. “And to me, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s critical work to improve this. If we’re requiring citizens to come to these offices to do their business with the state, we have to make the process more smooth, more pleasant, and shorter.”
As a candidate in 2018, Benson promised a 30-minute guarantee for all branch offices. She says the average wait time statewide is already a bit less than that. But at individual branches, the times vary widely, from two minutes in Rogers City to more than two hours in Novi, Troy, and Livonia.
“The question is how we eliminate those disparities and make it so that every office is staffed and fully-equipped to handle the transaction volume that they’re encountering in any particular day,” Benson says.
Her predecessors have introduced a number of ways that people can do their business without waiting in line. Many branches have self-serve kiosks that allow customers to renew their plates and registrations in just a couple of minutes. Benson says about a third of them are not working. She says they need to be fixed and upgraded so that people can do more things at the kiosks.
Click on the audio player to hear the conversation with WDET’s Pat Batcheller.