I just ran across this article and couldn't agree more! I have had nothing but bad experiences going through the security line at the airport and a thank you or welcome would go a long way...
Simple Ways TSA Could Make Customers Happier: "
Why do multimillion and multibillion dollar companies and organizations maintain counterproductive business practices that are at fundamental odds with their missions? Why do they do things that seem designed to piss off their customers? Are they just so trapped in their routines that they don't realize what they're doing?
As if TSA's relationship with the public weren't bad enough, it got strained even further a couple of weeks ago when news reports of its search of an adult cancer patient's diaper boomeranged all over the internet. If TSA really wants to improve its image, it wouldn't be hard to do. Here are just a few things that would transmogrify public attitudes about the agency.
- Stop the Shouting. No human being responds well to someone shouting 'Remove all laptops! Take out all liquids, aerosols, and gels! Remove all items from your pockets, that means ALL items!' at them at 6 AM--or any other time of day. Imagine walking into a Toyota dealership to find a uniformed officer there yelling, 'If you want a Camry get in the left line; if you have credit question go to the right!' The best way for TSA to improve customer service would be to start treating people like customers instead of animals. They should establish a 'no yelling or you're fired' rule. This alone would transform the atmosphere around the screening areas. And people might actually pay attention.
- Lollipops. Give lollipops to kids after they go through a screening. It would immediately signal customer appreciation, sensitivity, and basic humanity.
- Advanced Courtesy Training. TSA agents rarely say thank you, they bark orders at you, and they generally treat you like an idiot because you aren't 100% proficient at a procedure that they perform countless times a day. TSA should conduct extensive staff training on the language and habits of basic courtesy.
- Usable Comment Cards. Agents should be required to greet customers with their first name. 'Hi, I'm Ann, and I'll be searching your bag.' When finished, the agent should hand the passenger a zen-simple comment card that says 'Ann' with numbers 1-10 underneath so that you can circle a score and drop it immediately into a comment box. If you want customers to believe you care about their feedback, prove it: Make it super-simple for them to tell you what they think.
- A Context of Friendliness. Shifting the context of customer-interfacing operations from one of intimidation to one of friendliness does not mean ceding the power necessary to keep airports secure. Using the comment card feedback, for example, each day TSA could place a large poster at the entrance to the security area with a photo of the agent voted friendliest the previous day, with a headline, 'Yesterday's Most Courteous Agent, According to You.' Staff could be trained to utter a simple, 'Welcome,' when you enter the line. Bins could be ordered in bright saturated colors, instead of Big Brother gray. Hell, maybe they could even have 'Hi!' written on them.
- Simple Equipment Innovations. A TSA agent in Boston designed an apparatus that sends empty plastic bins from the end of the line along a sloping, roller-lined rack and feeds them back onto the conveyor belt, thereby placing the bins at your fingertips as you move along the conveyor. You can grab bins as you need them instead of lugging two or three by your fingernails from the start of the line. The innovation eliminates human labor involved in endlessly transferring bins from the end of the line to the front. The machine is ingenious. The agent had it fabricated with his own money. Yet the manager told me the Feds want it taken down because they didn't design it. They should do the opposite. They should order one for every TSA line in America. The labor savings and time savings would pay for equipment in a month. The innovation would demonstrate care and concern to the general public, and would make everything easier and faster.
- Magic Bin and 1,000th Passenger Programs. Put a star on the bottom of every 100th bin. The customer who gets that bin wins a voucher for a refreshing beverage at one of the airport concessions. The 1,000th passenger each day gets a voucher for a relaxing 15-minute massage at one of those airport mini-spas. Signs in the queue could alert customers to the programs, which would alter the spirit of the operations area. These two programs would create substantial positive word-of-mouth advertising. People would start saying, 'You wouldn't believe what happened to me in the TSA line the other day...' and it wouldn't be that they got strip-searched.
- Relaxing Music. Security is the most stressful part of the travel experience. Acknowledge that and reduce the stress by playing spa music in the TSA areas.
- Family Assistance. Families traveling with strollers and car seats and formula bags have a tough time. Station a family assistant in the queue area to help families get all their stuff through the lines.
- Value Proposition Messages. Long lines are an advertiser's dream. TSA should put up advertising boards touting their value: '278 flights delivered safely yesterday from this station' or '6,887 passengers delivered to their destinations without incident yesterday from this station.'
- Late Program. Eliminate stressed-out passengers from the line by offering to put people at the front of the line for a $35 fee if they are at risk of missing their flights.
It took less than an hour to brainstorm a few imaginative ideas like this (no sarcastic 'it shows' comments, please). Imagine if TSA leaders were to do a little bit of design thinking themselves. The agency has the opportunity to reverse the antagonistic dynamic that has developed between it and its customers. In the process, it could make customers dramatically more cooperative and happy, and improve safety at the same time.
What are your imaginative ideas?