What does the TSA know about Customer Service?

Do they really care?

Well it turns out that they know a lot, and actually appear to care.

For those of you who are frequent travelers you may remember being asked to fill out a survey about 2 years ago about your travel experience as you passed through security.

I, like many others, took the survey assuming that the TSA, like most government departments would continue to ignore the problems.

The Problems (ask any frequent traveler and they will agree):

  1. A lot of people seem unable to have their ID ready when they reach the first TSA agent
  2. 3 ounces is a SMALL bottle of shampoo, not that full size bottle in your shower
  3. Yes, Jack Daniels is measured in ounces and is subject to the 3 ounce limit
  4. 2 bags… count them: 1 and 2 … 3 is more than 2 🙂
  5. Sharp objects, pepper spray, and guns are frowned upon as you go through security
  6. Yes you really need to take off your shoes, jacket, and belt
  7. If it has a keyboard, battery, and hard disk…. it’s a computer, take it out of your bag
  8. Take EVERYTHING out of your pockets…. how hard can this really be?

Well the TSA, thanks to the surveys and some govemenent common sense (there is a phrase you don’t say often), have implemented their TSA Pre-Check Program.

If you have not yet experienced it, it will give you flashbacks to the days when air travel was easy and fun:

  • Leave everything in your carry-on bags
  • Leave your shoes on
  • Leave your light jacket on
  • You go through a standard metal detector instead of the full body scanner
  • It typically takes a fraction of the time to clear security

Not only is TSA Pre-Check a welcome change for all frequent fliers, it actually restores at least some confidence that a government run organization can identify a need and take action to satisfy the need.

Are you identifying problems facing your customers and finding ways to correct them?

While the TSA implementation of PRE may not be perfect and there is still some confusion about who qualifies (see footnote below), they have taken a major step in identifying and dealing with a customer issue.

It seems strange that we can use the TSA as an example of improving customer service and satisfaction. In an environment where the TSA has NO NEED to create any form of customer loyalty (because if you need to fly you need to go through security), they still took steps to improve the experience, and their own efficiency.

Take a look at your own organization:

  • Are there issues that your best customers face that can be eliminated?
  • Are your most frequent customers treated with preferred service?
  • Can you take simple steps to improve the experience of your frequent and best custmers?
  • Do you have experienced and educated customers that you can process faster than others and increase efficiency?

If the TSA can find ways to improve the customer experience, can you?

I challenge each of you too identify at least one issue your frequent customers have AND FIX IT.


For those of you who are frequent travellers, here is my current understanding of how you can take advantage of this new line at the airport:
1) Opt in with a participating airline on which you are a frequent traveller (it would appear that you need to travel with an airline enough to be a “Gold” type level.


2) Register with the Homeland Security Global Entry System
Global entry is a fee based service where you pay $100, submit an applilcation, and go for an interview. Once approved you will have expidited entry back into the country when you travel internationally. In additon, you can enter the number on the back of your card into the “Trusted Traveller” number on each airlines frequent flier account information. So far it’s worked great for me, and even on airlines where I have no status TSA Pre-Check is still available.

3) NEW: According to the TSA website at http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck sometime this fall you will be able to apply for a Pre-Check Known Traveller Number. As of the time of writing, the application form is not yet on-line.