By John Ramos

(CBS SF) – The California Department of Motor Vehicles shut down all offices Wednesday morning for a four hour training session on processing the new REAL ID driver’s licenses, but it was also about making the offices more customer friendly.

The training prepared more than 5,000 DMV employees to efficiently process incoming REAL ID applications, which are more complex and take more time, DMV officials said.

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People arriving at San Francisco’s Fell Street office during the closure were kept waiting outside; inside, workers got training on how to keep the customers happy.

No one said it would be easy. Throughout the state, DMV workers got a refresher course on processing REAL ID’s, but they also did some role-playing exercises to learn to present a kinder, gentler face to the public. Waiting in line outside, Mark Torrocha almost seemed disappointed by that.

“If they want to change it, I think it’s great,” he said. “But if they want to keep as it is, then we just keep making more jokes about it on TV, right?

At 1 p.m. sharp, the doors opened and like cattle in a chute, the customers filed in as the speakers in the ceiling called out the customer’s numbers.

Officials, including Governor Newsom himself, are tired of having the DMV viewed so negatively.

“What we’re looking for right now is real tangible change here at DMV, so that we can provide consistent customer service at all of our offices across the state, and that’s our ultimate goal,” said spokesman Jaime Garza.

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There were a few faint smiles, but mostly, it was down to business. And that seemed to be OK with people, including Torrocha.

“Oh…I’m satisfied that I’m out,” he said as he left the office. “I was there for, like, 10 minutes and I’m good to go. So, yeah, today was good!”

It seems that the real secret to making customers happier at the DMV is to get them out of there as soon as possible.

Beginning in October of 2020, a REAL ID will be required to board an airplane and enter other federal facilities, such as military bases. DMV officials are preparing for a rush of customers as the deadline gets closer. They recommend calling for an appointment three or four months before your license is set to expire.

As the enforcement date approaches, DMV offices are receiving an increasingly high volume of REAL ID applications combined with a regular summer surge of new drivers seeking licenses.

“The unprecedented complexity of the REAL ID requirements is what led to the idea that we needed to take the extraordinary step of closing DMV offices for a short time to make sure all employees have consistent information in order to complete the transactions successfully,” California Government Operations Agency Secretary Marybel Batjer said in a statement.

DMV call centers remained open during the half-day office closure. Online transactions and the DMV’s self-service kiosks at grocery stores and libraries were also available.

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