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Just explain it and I won’t be so angry

With the usual TSA randomness, security at O’Hare started telling people not to put their shoes in the bins. They want them right on the belt.

Which is, of course, different than every other city.

So every traveler does it wrong, and every traveler gets yelled at.

But one snowy day, the TSA agent said, “Please put your shoes right on the belt so the bins stay clean and don’t mess up everyone’s clothes and computers.” Which is actually a nice thing that makes perfect sense.

Now I get it. And I appreciate it.

The Lesson: A sign and an explanation can turn tension into appreciation. Not so hard.

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  1. August Jackson June 11, 2010 at 8:43 am #


    Thanks much for this post. As an oft-frustrated O’Hare traveler it is nice to know that the TSA staff can be thoughtful if sometimes not communicative.

    As with all customer-facing positions it’s useful to see the world from the customer’s perspective. Managers of front line employees can guide these interactions. One of the biggest challenges I see is when an employee gets frustrated about the need to explain something repeatedly. The harried TSA agent has had to tell hundreds of people to put their shoes directly on the luggage belt. For the customer, though, this almost certainly the first time that they’ve faced this situation today. The fact that the process is distinct from other security checkpoints is also confusing.

    Signs are helpful, as are other visual or auditory cues that help inform the customer what they are expected to do and what they can expect from customer-facing employees.

    One of the best classes from my MBA was “Service Marketing” and touched on these concepts by extending the traditional 4 P’s (a product-oriented framework) with 3 more P’s that are crucial when marketing services: People (the customer-interacting employees skills and attitude as well as the customers themselves), Process (what does everyone do and what can we expect of one another) and Physical Evidence (cues in the environment that inform or set the mood, something tangible to take away from an otherwise intangible service purchase). I’m greatly simplifying the concept for brevity but all marketers selling services should take a closer look at this framework and remember your TSA story.

  2. Nick S. June 14, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    So simple, yet so meaningful. We can all identify with this. Thanks for the story.

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