Richard Allen had his driving licence stolen.  Getting it replaced took a one minute phone call, and it arrived two days later, rather than the promised seven.

That’s a disaster.

I thought I’d check out the online method but it was obvious from the instructions page that this was going to take some time and involve handing over quite a lot of information.

That left the phone service. I called, they took my debit card details and promised to send a new license within 7 days. It actually arrived on the following Monday, i.e. 2 postal days, and the whole transaction took around a painless minute.

Well done DVLA for a great phone service. The ease of this method over the online one for the citizen is that the operator is keying in all the relevant personal and payment details.

But it is also interestingly identity validation free while the online method inserts the Government Gateway registration into the process. This does seem an odd discrepancy but as long as it is so then I’ll keep using the simpler method.

Government – and DVLA better than most – are investing heavily in online transactional service delivery.  When it works well, it’s a better experience for the service user and more efficient for the service provider, and so, ultimately, for the taxpayer.

Richard is not an average citizen.  He is web-savvy and government-savvy to the highest possible degree.  If he chooses the telephone service over the online service, that doesn’t augur well for mass take up of online services.  But as Richard observes, the real issue here is asymmetry:  I suspect for him (and for me and for many others) the issue is less whether we outsource our typing to a call centre agent and much more the messy barrier of identity validation.  If I can assert my identity by phone but have to go through a laborious checking process online, the choice is not a hard one. 

Of course we could even up the alternatives by making telephone services work like the government gateway.  But it might be more rewarding to explore how we make the government gateway more like telephone services.