Flyers are ticked-off at the Transportation Security Administration once again as the TSA institutes new travel restrictions in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack Christmas Day. The reason they’re upset is deeper than being inconvenienced during the last hour of an international flight. It’s the same reason people are angry at certain companies.
People accept inconveniences every day. We accept the idea of one-way streets and that we must accompany our children at the swimming pool and not just leave them there. We put out our recycling once or twice a week and think nothing of it. We also deal with TV networks that stop showing a particular TV show for a month or two before starting it up again.
Yet we get really annoyed when the TSA institutes new security rules in the face of a new terrorist attack. Actually, we were annoyed already, but now we’re even more annoyed than we were. Why do we pick on the poor TSA?
Flyers pick on the Transportation Security Administration because most of the inconvenient security measures they take make no sense to most people. We don’t understand why we have to take off our shoes, separate our liquids, and separate the computer and the jacket in separate trays. We don’t understand why we can take five 3 oz. bottles on the plane but not one 4 oz. bottle. We don’t understand because the TSA has failed to tell us why or the reason they give is not a good one.
“We’re keeping you safe” is not a good reason when you realize you’ve left your computer back at the Quiznos right after walking past the security gate to leave the basically empty airport and the three (count ‘em, three) TSA employees refuse to let you go back to retrieve it. One of those employees could have escorted me back to the Quiznos (about 500 feet away) but policy is policy.
So what does this have to do with customer service? Everything. As the airline’s customer, I am also the airport’s customer and therefore, the TSA’s customer. My customer experience comes from the combined efforts of all three, plus the various stores and restaurants in the airport, including Quiznos (who found the computer and put it behind the counter so nobody would steal it). And when I, or any other customer isn’t given a good reason for rules and policies, we become angry, frustrated and capable of doing irrational things we wouldn’t normally do, including yell and scream at customer service reps and managers of retail stores.
What policies do you have and how are you explaining them to customers? Does each of your policies and rules have a good reason for being a policy? If they do, explain the reason to your customers when they protest the rule – but it had better be a good reason. “We’ll lose money if the coupon is turned in a day late” is not anything the customer cares about. The customer only knows she couldn’t get there yesterday because there were six inches of snow on the ground.
People understand we need rules, even those which are inconvenient. They also understand that the customer/provider relationship is a two-way conversation: I will abide by your rule and accept the inconvenience if you tell me why it’s important and especially, why it benefits me. Keep that in mind when you’re telling a customer he has to wait or can’t have something because you have your rules.
I’ve yet to find anybody who understands how taking away our blankets for the last hour of a flight will make me any safer than I was the day before this incompetent would-be terrorist set his pants on fire. Until they explain that and all the other rules they have, people will continue to use the TSA as their favorite conversational punching bag.
Tags: airport security, angry customers, bad experience, bad service, customer experience, Customer Experience Ownership, customer service, Flight 253 terrorism, impersonal service, new TSA rules, Northwest Flight 253, Transportation Security Administration, TSA, upset customers