A MAGIC® Transformation at the DMV

By Diane Berenbaum

License Plates and Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi believed that we must be the change we want to see in the world. He would say, "In a gentle way, you can shake the world." One day, I was able to shake the DMV.

Imagine yourself waiting at the DMV. Like most of us, I am sure you are conjuring up images of long lines, unfathomable wait times, confusing processes, and less than friendly associates.

As I headed to the DMV one day to get a new license plate, my friends offered their condolences and suggested I bring lots of reading material. Sure enough, after standing in two different lines and filling out various forms, I found myself sitting in a row of chairs, waiting for my number to be called. Despite the fact that I had spent over an hour already, I was determined to remain calm.

After 30 minutes of watching the numbers on the screen go up one-by-one, finally my number appeared. As I approached the counter it was obvious that the DMV associate was not in particularly great spirits. While looking down with a frown, she barked orders at me. When she noticed that a signature was missing on one of my forms, she tossed it back and chastised me for not filling it out properly. I continued to smile, and do as she asked.

When the transaction was complete, she grabbed a random plate in paper wrapping and tossed it in my direction. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the number on the plate: 100-DOG. How could this be? This was a random plate, yet it was the perfect one for me.

"Thank you so much!" I exclaimed. "How did you know what plate to give me? I love it! You have made my day." She couldn't help but notice that I was bubbling with joy—and I couldn't help but notice the transformation that happened next. The DMV associate looked up and began to smile. Her whole face lit up and entire demeanor changed. She started treating me like a friend, chatting and laughing. As I was leaving, she even said it was her pleasure to serve me and that she was glad I liked the plate.

As I waved goodbye and she waved back, it dawned on me what had just happened. By treating her with MAGIC®, she responded with MAGIC. Would the rest of her customers that day see this MAGIC side of her? What would happen tomorrow and the next day?

I realize there is MAGIC in everyone. I saw first-hand that by being MAGIC myself, I can shake the world, or in this case the DMV, and bring out the MAGIC in others.

Be the Change You Want to See in the World

You, too, can shake the world simply by spreading MAGIC. One of my associates told me of the time he responded calmly and empathically to a frantic and slightly grumpy sales clerk at a home improvement retailer. The clerk appreciated the fact that someone recognized his situation and proceeded to help my associate with a newfound sense of courtesy and professionalism.

Another associate told me of the time he saw a stand-off between a hotel guest and the front desk. He helped the hotel associate recognize that his defensive comments ("It's not my fault that there was someone in the room that I gave you") only served to make the guest angrier. After a little empathy and a proactive solution, everyone was happy.

Shake the World with MAGIC Service

"Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger and we will make not only our own happiness, but that of the world at large," said Gandhi.

By being MAGIC, you can make an impact on an immediate situation. Those you touch with MAGIC will then be MAGIC with others as well, and so the MAGIC spreads…and shakes.
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.