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Suddenly It Happens!

Sometimes I experience something that makes my Business Excellence-focused heart race. Today I had such an experience. It felt like going into a zone of joy with full focus on the customer. Today, I was one of the customers. The amazing thing is, that you can actually sense that zone, even though it is not visible at all. There are no balloons or signs indicating that this could exist as something extra. When you enter such a zone you experience it instantly. Whilst standing in the queue to be served I felt something was ‘out of the ordinary’. The staff made jokes and were laughing. They talked in a very friendly way with the customers and they were teasing each other for fun. It was like listening to a symphony where integral parts were falling into place exactly as and where they were meant to.

My first thought was that this was a lot like the famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. If you have not seen the clips from that market you can find them on Youtube.

Where was the place that I had this experience? It was the security checkpoint at Tampa International Airport! If you are used to flying you know that going through the checkpoint is almost always a pretty boring hassle and sometimes even a very unpleasant experience. It feels as though you are treated like a criminal, as if everyone is expected to carry a bomb in their trousers or a machine gun in their suitcase. The whole situation is quite absurd as 99,999…% of all those who pass through are ordinary citizens who have no intention at all of causing damage to the airport, the planes or their co-passengers. They just want to move their butt from one place to the other and need an airplane to do it. It is only a very, very, small percentage that are a problem. However, should the rest then be treated like that tiny percent, just because we cannot distinguish them from one another?

As there are crazies out there who are prepared to use violence to force their opinion onto others, the security services have a very important role to play. Unfortunately most of the security people have not figured out how to treat the vast majority in a pleasant way, whilst simultaneously doing a highly professional security job. Most of them assume that if they are mean looking and threatening whilst exudingpower and force – they are doing their job.

Marlon Hodge - Tampa Intl Airport (cropped)

But TSA (Transportation Security Administration) at the checkpoint I passed through at Tampa International Airport, they have understood the remit. They served me, and the rest of the passengers, with a smile. I assume that they are no worse than anyone else in detecting the bad guys. The man behind the team, Marlon Hodge, explained to me that they take it very seriously when it comes to customer service. From his point of view, they have to provide their customers, the passengers, with the best service. Remember that the customers are the ones that also need the service from TSA to be there, as it is for their own protection.

He also explained how the management encouraged a positive customer focus and that the management worked hard to fulfill the vision of a good place to work and serve the customers. After all the explanations he had to reveal, with a big laugh, that he was the manager. What a guy! 🙂

Marlon Hodge has done a great job and I hope that his team is the one taking care of me the next time I pass the security at Tampa International Airport. I also hope that TSA takes Marlon’s ideas and ensures that all their teams involved in security screening learn from Marlon and his team. Not only TSA, but also all other security teams around the world can benefit from this. Whilst I am wishing, I wish that the ideas also spread to all the immigration officers around the world.

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To you and your organization’s excellence.


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