Thursday, November 4, 2010

The TSA's Biggest Problem isn't Security.

The Transportation Security Administration has a problem, and it's not security.  It's image.

I don't deride the organization for what it does.  It serves a vital and important part in public air travel in the United States.  The problem lay not in what they do, but how they do it.

As a frequent-flier I have no problem if they want to pat me down.  Shoes off? No sweat.  Jacket, belt, pants?  I don’t care.  Full-body scan?  Sure.  (Maybe they can have a radiologist on-hand as well...) Cavity search?  Maybe not.

It’s simply the rudeness of the minimum-wage, ill-trained, no-clue “agents” who, I suspect, find themselves in positions of power for the first time in their lives.  Once – only once – I took fate into my hands, turned to an offending agent and said, quite simply, “You know, this would all be much easier if you treated us like people and not your dog.”

He was stunned.  His internal debate played out on his face as he realized that I was right.  No apology of course, but I could have been pulled off the line and made to miss my flight.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen these “professionals” bellow in the faces of hapless seniors, young parents or foreigners who don’t quite know what’s going on.  This is not breaking news; if you do a quick internet search, you'll see countless of posts like this one.  But my point of differentiation is that TSA staffers can be 100% as effective as they are now (Notice the phrasing.) by being polite.  Yelling will not ferret out someone with ill intentions.  Just the opposite, in fact.

In response, the TSA seems to have embarked on an effort to become more accessible to the public and is offering a multitude of ways to be in touch.  But, they're missing the point.  Much of the public outrage over the TSA would be obviated if they just followed some basic rules of good customer service.

And that is the point of this post.  Very often how we do something is even more important than what we do.  That can be applied to any product or service in any industry.  Including security.

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