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Thursday, November 5, 2009

TSA could be better, but so could their customers

I feel for the TSA and the service workers charged with providing a very important service in a difficult environment.

While as a service the TSA has its flaws, we’re not very good consumers of their services either. We don’t play our roles, or worse, actively try to subvert theirs. Travelers present some of the least high performing customers in any service environment.

The TSA could do themselves a favor by improving the physical environment where their service is performed.

We’ve figured out how to put advertising in the bottom of bins, but we can’t get people to put their shoes on the belt. Instead of the hopeless voice shouting over the din of travelers, why not paint outlines of a pair of shoes every few feet on the conveyor? Stencil, “place shoes here” if you have to.

TSA area signage generally consists of letter-sized memos topping waist-high rope-posts while the surrounding walls are covered in giant back-lit ads for consulting services. Bring the signage to eye level, make it larger, make the messages shorter. Even better - work with the airport to reclaim some ad space in order to improve service operations with really effective signage.

The metal detector alarms are too unobtrusive, and too kind to offenders. Why not switch out the generic alarm sound with something intentionally embarrassing, such as, “I still have metal,” repeated over and over. After a few embarrassing moments, people would conform.

The TSA has a great website geared towards preparing travelers for airport security, and they’re all over social media. This is great, but while most travelers go online for boarding passes, they’re not planning their trip through security.

For the most impactful results, TSA has some major work to do in understanding and improving their physical environment’s ability to convey the customers’ roles more effectively than they do today.

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