On a recent trip through Philly International’s US Airways Terminal, going through the TSA line, noticed three lines at play: A regular passenger line, a “Preferred Access” and a “TSA-Approved” one.
The regular line was long and twisted, many passengers anxious, making eye contacts with one another, shaking their heads and inching towards the two agents checking IDs as fast as they could. The second line was for “Preferred Access”, for the ones who had paid a fee to go through the line faster, but in reality, although they were in a shorter line, they were going at the same speed since there was only one agent checking their IDs, so in reality they were not really any better off than the regular line. Then there was the third line for the “TSA Approved” that there was only an occasional passenger going through every now and then and the agent for that line was idle for most of the time. This is the traditional example of an unsynchronized flow, where you have bottle necks in most of the operations while have idle capacity in other areas. Do you have such dynamics at parts of your operations?
Lack of proper flow results in reduced operational efficiencies and customer satisfaction levels. In the example above, folks who have paid an extra fee to get processed faster realize they are not getting much value from their purchase and an agent manning the “pre-Approved” line ends up working at a fraction capacity as compared to his counterparts.
Achieving a more synchronized flow is usually not a difficult goal to achieve. In our example, since the “”Preferred Access” and “TSA Approved” lines and agents where in close proximity to one another, a simple business rule change of having the “TSA-Approved” agent flag the next in line for the “Preferred Access” when he is idle would have had a drastic impact on the processing speed of that line while leveraging existing available operational capacity. As the matter of fact, on my return flight back to Philly from Atlanta, this was the exact operational protocol at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport!
When was the last time you observed key operational processes in your organization to gain a better understanding of potential bottlenecks? When was the last time you asked your customers about challenges they face when dealing with your customer facing team? Finally, when was the last time you solicited suggestions from your operational team members on how they could better serve their clients?