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Last Friday I was in line for security at Logan airport. I noticed that there was only one agent checking IDs, so I figured this was going to be a long and painful process. Much to my surprise the line not only went quickly, but you could hear laughter.

The lone TSA agent was doing an amazing job and delivering a great experience. (Now that is a sentence I never expected to write.) But he was. He was fast, engaging, funny, and he personalized every interaction.

He had to work two lines at once, but he always told the other line what he was doing. And every time he checked an ID he built a quick connection with the passenger. Look at some of these things I heard him to say to passengers in front of me:

"You're heading home to 75 degree weather? I bet you're sad about that." That made the college student laugh.

"Thank you for your service, ma'am." Passenger must have used a military ID.

"I don't know if I've ever seen a better picture on a drivers license." Said to a smiling elderly woman.

"Only a few weeks until pitchers and catchers." He said this to me since I was wearing a Red Sox hat.

I have to tell you. I was in awe. People standing in line to go through security are not always in the best of moods, and this TSA agent was WOWing everyone with an amazing experience.

Here are five things I took away from this experience.

1. Hire outgoing people. Most TSA agents look miserable. You could tell this man truly loved working with the public. Don't hire people who need a job. Hire the right people who want to do the job.

2. Personalization happens in the details. This TSA agent didn't use the same line over and over. He discovered something unique about every individual, and used that information to make the "customer" feel special.

3. You can work fast and efficiently, and still be engaging. That is a big one. A lot of people think a great experience takes time. This agent was able to wow people in seconds. You could see that was his goal.

4. People like to feel special and appreciated. You could see in their body language and facial expressions how well passengers responded to this TSA agent's comments and demeanor. I think we sometimes underestimate the importance of making customers feel special. It really is a strategic competitive advantage.

5. We win and lose one employee and one customer at a time. Later on that same day I saw an airline employee handle a customer situation very poorly. It was as bad an experience as the TSA agent's was good. Too bad for the airline and the customer that the TSA agent was on the other side of security.

So let me ask, what can you and your team learn from this TSA agent and apply in your business? Talk about it in the comments below.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • douglas ritter
    Couldn't agree more. The standard for hiring TSA folks seems have a very low bar -- and includes folks who used to work at the DMV!
  • Bill Fisher
    I don't know how they can make a search that borders on sexual assault a pleasant experience but to each his own. Personally, I think there is some inherently wrong with anyone who would rub a stranger's privates in public all day for money.
  • Doug Fleener
    I travel a minimum of four times a month and have never personally experienced anything remotely offensive.
  • Berenice Narvaez
    Nice experience thank you to share it! Completely agree with you!
  • Shep Hyken
    A TSA agent delivering great customer service? Absolutely! It’s not that all of the other TSA agents aren’t friendly, but when you have an outgoing personality like the person described in this article, you stand out. I actually have a lot of nice interactions with TSA agents when travelling, and it’s nice to see someone notice. Better are the five “take-aways” the author learned from the experience.
  • George Abel
    It's an old adage, but still one that holds true....Hire for attitude, train for skills. You may have to wait a little longer to hire that special individual, but it's worth it. A quick story from a convenitence store chain. We received a contact from a customer at one of our stores. The caller eplained he was an elderly gentleman who was having trouble pumping gas at a competitore's locations. He stopped at one of our sites and explained he was having trouble operating the pump. Our employee not only wet outside, remember it's February, to show the gentleman how to operate the pump but told the gentleman that anytime he comes in, she'll pump his gas for him as long as she's available. This gentleman not only comes to us to purchase gas, he's now a loyal customer for all the other items we sell. This is the kind of employee we try our best to hire.
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Doug Fleener
Doug Fleener, the former director of retail for Bose Corporation, is president and managing partner of Dynamic Experiences Group LLC, a proven retail and customer experience firm that works with progressive retailers and other customer-focused companies.
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